Proposals for the Department of Modern Languages

July 2016 update

The focus of our original proposals was to enable the Department of Modern Languages to make a stronger contribution to the University’s 2015-20 Strategic Framework, Making Important Things Happen, particularly to the research and education strands. In February 2016, a number of proposals were put forward in order to achieve this, including plans for investment in the Department, staffing changes and development of the undergraduate curriculum.

Between February and April, we undertook a comprehensive consultation process during which we sought views on the proposals from a range of internal and external stakeholders (including students, staff, alumni, academia and professional bodies). We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the consultation process and provided valuable comments and feedback. 

The consultation process closed on 27 April 2016 and all of the responses were considered carefully by the College Change Management Group to inform a set of recommendations for consideration by College Board. These recommendations were endorsed by University Executive Board in May, and they were presented to University Council for final consideration on 29 June 2016. The recommendations were approved, which means that we will:

Increase the number of staff in the Department of Modern Languages

The number of staff in the Department will increase from 72 to 75. This is a revision to the original proposals, which recommended a small reduction in the number of staff (from 72 to 70). 

This decision was influenced by the Department of Modern Languages’ response to the consultation, which introduced the concept of the Birmingham Language Graduate (BLG). This encompasses a variety of reforms including increased language contact hours and curriculum development, with the aim of enabling students to achieve higher levels of linguistic ability. In order to support the Department in delivering the BLG concept we will be: increasing the number of colloquial language assistant staff; introducing an additional language instructor post; and investing in new research-active staff, who will also contribute to language teaching and have interests relevant to the new linguistic emphases in the curriculum.

The intention is that the revised staffing structure will be implemented during 2016/17, with some staff joining in the autumn and others at different points during the year. This will enable the full complement of new staff and the new BLG curriculum to be in place for autumn 2017.

We are also pleased to say that we have been able to avoid compulsory redundancies. The final recommendations saw us retain a number of members of staff whose posts were proposed for redundancy, either in their current roles or elsewhere within the Department. In addition to significantly reducing the number of staff whose posts were proposed to be put at risk, we have worked hard to seek alternative arrangements for any staff whose posts remained at risk, with the result that there is now no need for compulsory redundancies.

Provide Basque and Galician modules for continuing students

We will continue to provide Basque modules for second year students in 2016/17 and to students returning from their Year Abroad until 2018/19, and we will make Galician modules available in 2016/17 for students returning from their Year Abroad. This is a revision to the original proposals which recommended withdrawing Basque and Galician from 2016/17, in response to concerns raised by the small number of students who have chosen to come to Birmingham to study Basque and Galician. 

Integrate language teaching across the Department of Modern Languages

Staff with a specialism in a particular language will teach at levels appropriate to their expertise and experience, to support undergraduate teaching, postgraduate programmes and the successful Languages for All scheme. As noted above, delivery of language teaching will also be supported by a number of new staff. 

Introduce a dedicated Welfare Tutor role within Professional Services

This new member of staff will provide dedicated support for Modern Languages students throughout their studies. At present, welfare support in the Department is provided by academic staff, so this new role will free up their time to provide students with academic support.

Make a significant investment in the Department of Modern Languages

The staff changes outlined above will see us making an additional investment in the Department of £250k per year. In addition, redevelopment work in the space vacated by the Harding Law Library has already begun to create a new Translation and Interpreting suite.

 

We are confident that these measures will ensure that Department is equipped to prosper and thrive in what remains a challenging environment for Modern Languages, and enable us to maintain a high-quality teaching and learning experience for all of our students.