Imperial translation unit faces closure

Institution says students will be safe as it considers moving or closing specialist department

February 7, 2013

Imperial College London is consulting on plans to move or close its Translation Studies Unit.

The options follow a review that found that the unit’s activities were “not integral to the delivery of Imperial’s academic strategy”. Management has proposed exploring plans to move the unit to another institution or, if this is not feasible, to close it.

If Imperial goes ahead with the plans, it will be the second unit to leave the college from the former department of humanities, which was disbanded last year. The college announced in December that the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine would move to King’s College London from August 2013.

The Translation Studies Unit, which focuses on specialist science translation, has more than 50 MSc students and 25 PhD students.

The review by senior management found that the unit was profitable and had excellent teaching and research, said its head, Jorge Díaz-Cintas.

“[Management] acknowledge all those areas are positive and good, but they conclude we don’t fit the strategic mission of the institution. We’ve asked them what they mean…but they don’t seem to want to elaborate,” he told Times Higher Education.

A petition to save the unit has so far attracted more than 5,800 signatories.

Dr Díaz-Cintas said he feared that departure or closure could be a foregone conclusion, adding that he felt that there was a strategy at Imperial to “deplete anything that might be the humanities and social sciences”.

But a spokesman for Imperial said that although the department of humanities had been disbanded, a number of its activities had continued with a focus on broadening education, including a new programme of optional courses in subjects such as science in society and languages, delivered by the Centre for Co-Curricular Studies.

The institution has stressed that protecting the position of the translation unit’s students would be a priority.

The consultation is open until 18 February. A final decision is expected in the spring.

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