UCML has sent a letter about the proposed restructuring at Birkbeck, signed by the Executive Committee of representatives of the four nations, subject associations/languages and other disciplinary fields falling within UCML’s remit.

Dear Professor Latchman and Professor Innes,

I am writing on behalf of the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) to express our concerns regarding the proposed staffing cuts in Modern Languages at Birkbeck which place a number of key staff at risk.

As you will be aware, Modern Languages has already undergone significant staff losses, due to voluntary severance or non-replacement. Rather than reducing staffing in this area further, we urge the University to recognise the areas for growth which have been identified at BA, MA and PGR level in Modern Languages and related disciplines, and to allow sufficient time for these to develop post-Covid.

We would suggest that language degrees offer a unique combination of linguistic and critical thinking skills, which are highly sought after by employers. Language education has been recognised as an urgent priority area for both governmental and higher education bodies such as the AHRC, British Council, DfE (with its recent announcement of new investment in the languages pipeline), GCHQ, and the British Academy, and the economic benefits of languages stressed in a recent report by the University of Cambridge and RAND. We are concerned that Birkbeck will not be able to continue to play a significant role in these agendas if staffing is further reduced from current levels and if depth and breadth in terms of chronological and geographical areas are compromised through restructuring. This would be a reputational and intellectual loss to the University given the external recognition of excellence in Modern Languages and beyond. Could you, for example, focus on supporting Admissions and relevant ambassador programmes for languages, as recommended by the British Academy to enhance take up? We urge the management at Birkbeck to recognise the intrinsic, cultural and economic value of degrees in Modern Languages and will be happy to provide further information on current developments in the sector to support this advice and indeed to meet to discuss further.

With grateful thanks,

Professor Emma Cayley, University of Leeds, Chair of UCML and co-chair of Arts & Humanities Alliance

Dr Fransiska Louwagie, University of Aberdeen, Vice-Chair External Engagement and Communications for UCML

Dr Liz Wren-Owens, University of Cardiff, Vice-Chair Research for UCML

Professor Vicky Wright, University of Southampton, Vice-Chair Education for UCML

Dr Marcela Cazzoli, University of Durham, UCML Honorary Secretary

Dr Marián Arribas-Tomé, University of East Anglia, UCML Honorary Treasurer

Dr Sharon Jones, Queen’s University Belfast, UCML Chair for Northern Ireland

Dr Carlos A. Sanz Mingo, Cardiff University, UCML Chair for Wales

Professor Edward Welch, University of Aberdeen, UCML Chair for Scotland

Dr Nicola Bermingham, University of Liverpool, UCML Representative for Hispanic Studies

Dr Sarah Bowden, King’s College London, UCML Representative for Germanic and Low Countries Studies

Dr Adam Fergus, University of Sheffield; UCML Representative for Slavonic & East European Studies

Dr Luis Gomes, University of Glasgow, UCML Representative for Lusophone Studies

Professor Anna Lise Gordon, St Mary’s University, UCML Schools Liaison and Trustee of Association for Language Learning

Dr Emmanuelle Labeau, Aston University, UCML Representative for French Studies

Dr Liam Lewis, University of Liverpool, UCML Representative for Early Career Academics

Dr Marina Rabadán, University of Liverpool, UCML Representative for IWLP

Dr Begoña Rodríguez de Céspedes, University of Portsmouth, UCML Representative for Translation & Interpreting Studies

Professor Binhua Wang, University of Leeds, UCML Representative for East Asian Studies

Dr Chi Zhang, University of St Andrews, UCML Representative for Area Studies

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