Sad retreat from vital area

February 26, 2015

I am an academic at the University of Manchester who also sits on the senate, which has twice discussed the closure of the Middle Eastern studies undergraduate programmes. I did not participate in the first discussion in October, but was unhappy about the decision to close them (“Isis means ‘Oriental studies’ are more relevant than ever”, Opinion, 19 February).

A day or two later, I happened to hear Rory Stewart MP, the chair of the Commons Defence Committee, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme saying that a lack of people who could speak local languages was a major problem for the British army in Afghanistan and Iraq. It struck me again that Manchester should not be closing down these degrees at a time when the Middle East, an area of the world so important for global peace, is in such turmoil. I therefore put my head above the parapet when the senate met a couple of weeks ago, asking for the decision to be looked at again.

Sadly, my intervention did not have the desired effect. By coincidence, however, Stewart was on Today again the next morning, saying that we need to improve our “deep understanding” of the Middle East in order to oppose Islamic State (Isis). Since then, I have also listened to an interview he gave on the BBC’s HARDtalk in January, in which he said that the British foreign services do not have enough “deep linguistic knowledge” and “area expertise” of the region – the kind of knowledge and expertise that Manchester has provided for more than 150 years but that will soon be lost.

Adam Ozanne
Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Forrest Post Doctoral Research Fellow

University Of Western Australia

Research Fellow in Statistical Epidemiology

London School Of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (lshtm)

Phone Advisor

Gsm London
See all jobs

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald