German department to be cut, uni confirms

Jessica Palmer. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Jessica Palmer. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
It is "auf wiedersehen" to the German department, as the University of Otago confirms cuts to the languages programme.

The changes have been confirmed by division of humanities pro-vice-chancellor Prof Jessica Palmer.

"Through our languages and cultures programme students gain global literacy.

"Language is an important window into a culture, and we equip our students to apply critical thinking and analytical skills to develop their cultural literacy," Prof Palmer said.

"These changes protect as far as possible the diversity and proficiency level of Otago’s modern foreign language programmes, while ensuring a more financially sustainable model for the future."

Prof Palmer said one of the drivers of this decision was that modern foreign languages at the university and within the broader tertiary landscape have been the subject of decline in student numbers for some time, "despite the dedication and hard work of the languages and cultures staff".

She said there has been an overall decline in equivalent full-time students (EFTS) in languages and cultures of 78.7% between 2013 to 2022.

Over that period the number of students taking German as a major had decreased from nine EFTS in 2013 to 1.1 EFTS in 2022, a reduction of 88.3%.

Although BA majors in Chinese, French and Spanish, as well as BA majors in global studies were still being offered, the German department was being disestablished.

Honours and the MA (course work) would no longer be available at the languages and cultures department.

Overall, the changes represented a reduction in papers in the curriculum from 78 to 31 papers.

There would be a reduction in academic staff of five full-time-equivalents (FTEs), reducing the present level of 14 FTEs to nine, taking effect from next year.

Prof Palmer said formal consultation on the changes ran from March 21 to April 27, with the humanities division receiving 96 submissions on the proposed changes.

"The submissions were carefully considered by an advisory panel and some changes were made to the recommendations in light of the feedback," she said.

Majors and minors in Asian studies and European studies are disestablished, although two new papers are introduced that provide for regional studies in European and Asian cultures for language majors and global studies.

Prof Palmer said students enrolled in any of those programmes being disestablished would be able to complete their programmes.

The new curriculum will begin to be taught in 2025 and the present curriculum will be phased out by 2027.

Students will also be able to complete other papers offered in the division that encompasses Asian and European studies.