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Review Group recommends merger of Modern Languages and IWLP

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A Review Group looking at the provision of modern languages at the University has recommended merging the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (MLES) with the Institution-Wide Language Programme (IWLP). The recommendation was made in the Group’s final report to the University Executive Board.

The review was initiated last year to explore options to reduce the budget deficit in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, and to recommend ways of delivering financially sustainable language learning.  The Review Group – led by Mark Fellowes (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Academic Planning & Resources) and including Gail Marshall (Head of School of Literature and Languages), David Carter (Head of International Study and Language Institute), Katja Strohfeldt (Teaching & Learning Dean), Roberta Gilchrist (Research Dean) along with representatives from HR and Finance – spoke with a number of colleagues and accepted individual and team submissions.

Its recommendation, accepted by the University Executive Board (UEB), says that a new unified language unit is created by the merger of MLES and IWLP. This merged Department would be renamed and the recommendation is that it is operational from 1 August 2019. The new Department would be part of the School of Literature and Languages.

The Review Group believes that a new unified language unit at the University will help us:

  • meet the need for financial sustainability and our ability to maintain language teaching at Reading;
  • offer a broader range of languages to our students, particularly in joint honours programmes;
  • develop programmes that respond to the evolving learning needs of our students and are attractive to applicants;
  • offer a range of complementary modules, some of which can blend language and culture; and
  • create a centre of excellence in research and language pedagogy.

The recommendations suggest that the new Department will have between 24.5-29.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, as compared to the 37.68 FTE staff in MLES and IWLP currently. The savings will come from a reorganisation of teaching in the four overlapping languages (French, Italian, Spanish and German), and through a refocusing of research efforts.

Mark Fellowes said, “I know that this will be a very unwelcome outcome for colleagues, but the higher education sector and the University itself is going through difficult times. Nationally, the take-up of modern languages has been in decline with a drop of 28% in students choosing to study programmes with French, Spanish, Italian or German in five years.

“I personally believe that there can be a strong future for languages at Reading, where languages are at the heart of many programmes. To achieve this we must change how we work, and the merger between MLES and IWLP will provide financial sustainability to our modern language provision, offer some certainty to colleagues, and provide the space we need to build on the excellence we have.”

Following the acceptance of the Review Group’s recommendation by UEB, and the briefing for MLES and IWLP staff, the University will now initiate the restructuring process, as agreed with the UCU and the Staff Forum. The next step is for the recommendation to be considered by the University’s Council, and the Senate will have an opportunity to comment. If the recommendation is agreed, then a Consultation Group will be formed to take the next steps in the restructuring process.

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