Ulster University language staff in Confucius Institute closure warning

Oct 25, 2015 by

Modern languages staff at Ulster University (UU) have warned its vice-chancellor that its Confucius Institute may have to close.

Opened in 2012, the institute aims to develop academic, economic and social ties with China.

The university’s vice chancellor Prof Paddy Nixon has said the institute is not at risk.

UU decided to close its school of modern languages earlier this year as part of a response to budget cuts.

However, it said they would “continue to support the teaching of Chinese” in schools across Northern Ireland.

Although UU decided to close its school of modern languages, the university said it would “continue to support the teaching of Chinese” in schools across Northern Ireland.

Degrees in Chinese, French, Spanish and German will not be taught after 2019.

‘Enormous damage’

In its original bid for the Confucius Institute in 2011, UU said it wanted to lead “the development of the study of Chinese language and culture throughout Northern Ireland at all levels”.

It also said it was “committed to the study of languages for professional life”.

But in the letter to UU’s vice-chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon, seen by the BBC, the nine academic staff in the university’s modern language department warned: “Our reputation at a whole series of levels will be further damaged when the Confucius Institute, in the bid for which we showed unwavering commitment to the promotion of modern languages, is withdrawn from us, as inevitably it must, and relocated elsewhere in NI.”

They also said the decision to close the school will cause “enormous damage” and expressed concern about how existing students will be able to finish their degrees.

In the letter, the staff took issue with “the reassurance given to new students and those in the early stages of their studies… that the quality of their student experience will be in no way compromised”.

“It is hard to understand how you can give these students such an assurance,” the letter said.

“No-one knows and no clear decision has as yet been taken, let alone communicated to interested parties, what the exact scenario for teaching out the final year of an honours degree in modern languages at Ulster University will be.”

‘Integral part’

Under UU’s voluntary redundancy scheme, staff whose applications are accepted may leave at the end of April 2016.

UU hopes to employ staff on an hourly or part-time basis to teach languages students for the remainder of their undergraduate degrees until 2019.

However, in a separate internal document from the school of languages seen by the BBC, concerns are expressed about whether some staff will return to teach on such contracts.

In a statement in response, a university spokesperson said they were “currently exploring options for the teaching out of affected courses and would reassure students that their needs are being prioritised”.

“The Confucius Institute remains an integral part of the university and will continue to enhance academic, cultural, economic and social links between Northern Ireland and China.

“It will continue to support the teaching of Chinese in well over 100 schools across Northern Ireland, as well as the education of Chinese culture through community liaison initiatives and events.”

Source: Ulster University language staff in Confucius Institute closure warning – BBC News

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