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UC stripped of language units after funding cuts

Dr Yuko Kinoshita is head of Japanese at UC which means she will be out of a job.

Dr Yuko Kinoshita is head of Japanese at UC which means she will be out of a job. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

The first of the federal funding cuts are being felt at the University of Canberra, with language classes being discontinued from next semester, a move teachers fear will make languages less accessible.

Six academics are being made redundant in an arrangement that will result in UC students studying Japanese, Chinese and Spanish through the Australian National University.

But the curriculums at the two institutions do not overlap, with ANU courses having twice the number of contact hours, which will leave hundreds of students having to backtrack their learning.

"I think it will have some impact on [second-semester enrolment] but I think some of them might find it impossible … especially with the first-year units," UC Japanese language program head Yuko Kinoshita said.

"They're half way through their first year. If they can continue, there's no [beginner] unit to enroll in at ANU [in the second semester]."

The UC academics were pushing to delay the move until next year, which would also avoid the problem of ANU's second semester starting three weeks earlier than that of UC, requiring affected students to change work and travel arrangements or start late.

"Students are very busy - they have to work part-time jobs, adding to that this cross-institutional studies,'' Dr Kinoshita said. ''For a lot of them it will seem impossible … it will look too hard."

She also noted the extra logistics involved in travelling between campuses.

While there has been agreement to continue some units until the end of the year, it will most likely be third-year units to avoid disruption to students about to finish their major and graduate.

Dr Kinoshita, who has been teaching at the university since 2002, believes the decision to outsource languages is short-sighted and will have "bigger implications".

"Of course in the future, fewer [UC] students will take up languages and I think that's really sad and also dangerous. I think learning a language is not just about being able to speak another language. It's about developing tolerance, developing the respect to other cultures and experiencing the vulnerability of not being able to speak in the language very well … it's invaluable, and I'm really sad this opportunity will be lost for students in the future."

The arrangement, which will give ANU students access to UC's Graduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language in return, will save UC $300,000 a year.

The cost-saving measure was announced last month after modelling showed the university would lose $8.3 million in funding over the next three years through the government's efficiency dividend.

And with cuts to university funding nationally, the future for the six academics is uncertain.

ANU is also looking for ways to slash its spending, having sought suggestions from staff and students on how to deal with funding cuts.

On Friday, the university indicated staff cuts were among the potential cost-saving measures.

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