Saturday, June 1, 2013

Threatened closure of language programs at the University of Canberra (UC)

The UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker announced on Friday 24 May 2013 that, in response to the Federal Government’s ‘Efficiency Dividend’, “UC would discontinue its own teaching of elective majors in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish all of which are available at the ANU but which are too small at UC, in [his] view, to be viable.”

An hour earlier the six permanent academic staff of the Languages program were told the same and that they would be made redundant. All teaching of Languages would thus be transferred to ANU. No financial data was presented.

This decision is in direct contrast to UC’s public position on internationalisation and the value of globalised higher education. Staff in the Languages programs at UC and ANU were not consulted about the decision to cut languages at UC. 

This decision raises a number of issues:

1.      How will current students continue their language studies?
The programs at UC and ANU differ, and there are problems with timetabling across two campuses, in addition to the financial and time costs for students forced to access both campuses, not to mention the difficult process of cross institutional enrolment.

2.      How will future students have equal access to tertiary language education?
Experience from other Australian cities has shown that teaching languages at only one tertiary institution means ultimately that numbers of students studying languages decline, instead of being supported.

3.      Given the recent White Paper declaring this century the Asian Century how is this in the national interest? 

Clearly the focus is on Asia, but the VC is pulling the plug on all of its languages including two of the key Asian languages, Chinese and Japanese. The rhetoric and reality are quite different.

4.      How will UC be able to respond to the increase in student enrollments anticipated as a result of the new national curriculum being rolled out in 2014 for languages? 

From 2014 onwards all students from K-10 will learn a language as part of the Australian national curriculum. This initiative will dramatically increase the numbers of students with language learning experience. The flow on effect of this will mean that students will study languages at the tertiary level. How will this need be met if not by both UC and ANU continuing to offer its language programs?
UC programs are of the highest quality and receive constant positive feedback from students. Languages staff have also been awarded Australian and UC awards for teaching excellence. 

For the above-mentioned reasons, the staff listed below are distraught about this short-sighted decision. They seek to reverse this decision and would be grateful for your support by contacting the leadership of the University of Canberra as soon as possible to express your concern:

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra, Professor Stephen Parker can be contacted by email at

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Nick Klomp, can be contacted by email at

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, Professor Lyndon Anderson, can be contacted by email at

The students have also started a petition, it is at

Dr. Nicolette Bramley (Lecturer, Japanese)
Dr Jose Antonio Gonzalez (Assistant Professor, Spanish)
Dr. Yuko Kinoshita (Senior Lecturer, Japanese)
Dr. Naikan Tao (Assistant Professor, Chinese)
Dr. Laura Tolton (Assistant Professor, Spanish)
Dr. Felicia Zhang (Senior Lecturer, Chinese)

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