Language cuts 'harm community access'

June 8, 2001

New universities in London that are cutting language degrees because of a lack of demand have been warned that they are harming access for their local communities, writes Cherry Canovan.

Michael Kelly, director of the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, told The THES : "I think there is already an access problem (in languages), and it is particularly acute in London.

"New universities tend to recruit locally, so if they withdraw provision that does cut down on access. There are particular social classes and ethnic groups for whom working close to home is really quite important in terms of a university career."

Professor Kelly said the solution was for universities to work together. "There has not been any coordination or planning. The only real option is voluntary agreements, and that means vice-chancellors talking to each other."

An investigation has been launched into the capital's language provision by the London Higher Education Consortium, headed by Geoffrey Copland, vice-chancellor of the University of Westminster.

Dr Copland said: "The question we are asking is: how can we try to make sure that we get the best range of (language) provision across London? It may mean sharing of subjects."

He said the problems were happening in old and new universities.


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