Critical voices condemn Glasgow language plans

March 3, 2011

Plans to cut foreign language provision at the University of Glasgow have attracted a flood of protest from as far afield as Turkey, Sweden, the Czech Republic and the US.

As Times Higher Education has reported, scores of scholars have denounced plans to close "six or seven out of nine language areas" at the university. While Glasgow insists that no final decisions have been made, the number of protesters continues to grow.

Peter Hruby, a retired professor of international studies based in Annapolis, Maryland, says in a letter to THE that it is "hard to believe" in a globalised world that "such a reactionary idea could be even considered".

Eileen Laurie, a Glasgow graduate who works as a translator in Sweden, wonders whether "all native speakers of English (are) to stumble ignorantly around the world, clueless, ignorant of the history, politics, literature and language of other countries". Rachael Clerke, a Glaswegian now based in Istanbul, adds that Scotland does not need further encouragement "to become a small-minded nation".

Giuseppe Stellardi, Fellow and tutor in Italian at St Hugh's College, Oxford, writes that he cannot understand how well-educated people can fail to grasp the "horrendous implications of the decisions they take in the name of financial accountability...A university without a strong modern languages department condemns itself to being a second-rate one."

It was left to Marilena Moriconi, whose studies in Glasgow's Italian department enabled her "to enjoy a fruitful career as a teacher, published translator, author and editor in Italy", to make a personal appeal to its principal, Anton Muscatelli.

"Your surname hints at Italian origins ... like many immigrants, the Italians who came to Scotland demonstrated with their actions that they were brave, forward- and outward-looking people, driven to leave their homeland in search of betterment," she writes. "By hindering linguistic opportunities...you are ensuring that Scotland's future adventurers...may not be equipped to explore beyond national borders."

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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