Jobwatch: Can you talk the talk?

May 28, 2004

Westminster hopes to further boost healthy RAE scores with ten posts in social sciences, humanities and languages for those with a flexible approach, writes Chris Johnston.

A rising student intake at Westminster University is fuelling expansion of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, and there are ten lecturer/senior lecturer positions up for grabs.

This represents a 10 per cent rise in the number of staff at the school - the largest in the institution - which employs 100 full-time academics and is based at the campus on Euston Road in central London. It offers social sciences disciplines including international relations, European studies, criminology, politics and psychology, and languages including Arabic, Russian and Chinese in addition to English and linguistics.

Three of the positions - lectureships in psychology, criminology and politics and European studies - fall within the department of social and political studies.

Jeremy Colwill, the department chair, says Westminster has a strong reputation in criminology. The field has become particularly popular among undergraduates, and the department enrolled about 350 first-year students this academic year. A joint masters degree with the law school is also available.

Two of the ten posts are lectureships in academic literacy and English for academic purposes. Colwill says that an increasing number of students need help in getting up to speed with academic English. Both lecturers will work with Westminster's Academic Literary Unit, part of the school's English and linguistics department. The unit was established four years ago as a widening participation initiative, he says. It caters for native English speakers and for students for whom English is a second language. While helping students improve their academic performance, the unit also aims to cut the number of drop outs.

Colwill says that the school has responded to student demand for more flexible courses, such as combining languages with international business or politics. "It reflects what we think students increasingly want to do.

Languages are increasingly seen as a valuable business skill, and they are becoming less interested in spending three years studying only a language," he explains.

Arabic in particular is becoming more popular and can be taken as a four-year honours course, the third year of which is spent abroad.

Another part of the school is the department of diplomacy and applied languages, which includes the Diplomatic Academy of London, the Centre for Interpreting and Translation and the Centre for Applied and Professional Language Studies.

The ten appointments are also an attempt to bolster the school's research output for the next research assessment exercise, Colwill says. Linguistics scored a 5 in the last round, while the psychology department was rated a 3A, one of the highest results for a new university.

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