Outraged students launch petition against proposed changes to University of Sheffield language courses

Written by Liv Hill

Students and staff have spoken out against proposed changes to School of Languages courses at the University of Sheffield as a petition has gained over 5000 signatures.

On 30th April, students were informed by their student-staff committee about a planned reduction in contact hours, the potential doubling of class sizes, as well as a decrease in the level of language proficiency expected. Other features of the course may also be axed including grammar, translation, speaking, debate and discourse analysis classes.

Stephen Gamage and Matthew Hartill, two fourth year students who are the co-chairs of Sheffield University School of Languages & Cultures Student-Staff Committee, said they were extremely concerned about the proposed changes to the way the School is run.

They said: “In our opinion, they constitute an outright ‘de-specialisation’ of languages provision. Perhaps more concerning than that, however, is the extremely poor communication from the university to students about these changes.”

The university has responded by saying students’ contact hours will not be reduced and their students will continue to receive an excellent learning experience.

They said the proposed changes mean the scope of language interaction and experience for students will allow them to maximise their potential and level of achievement.

Despite this, Mr Gamage and Mr Hartill said these changes would have a monumental impact on the way languages are taught at Sheffield into the future, and this would affect students who are already studying here.

They added: “For the principal student representative body, the Student-Staff Committee, not to have had any communication with the faculty on this issue until only very recently is unacceptable. The university appears to pride itself on its ‘global’ reputation. It’s time they put their money where their mouth is.”

Professor Philip Swanson from the School of Languages and Cultures at the University also said he was naturally very concerned for the current and future students.

He expressed further concern for the integrity of the department’s discipline, their reputation as a major centre for Modern Languages, and for those SLC staff who are facing the prospect of redeployment, reduction of employment conditions or worse.

Professor Swanson said: “I hope that, through genuine, honest and meaningful consultation with staff and students from SLC, we will all be able to work together to reach a viable and ethically acceptable outcome in our common quest to sustain and improve the Languages and Cultures experience at Sheffield.”

The Committee have said the changes proposed did not undergo any consultation from staff or students, and they have come as a shock leading to several students considering dropping out of the course next year and leaving the university.

A spokesperson from the University of Sheffield, said: “Sheffield is committed to delivering the high-quality language courses our students have come to expect; and so the university has been consulting with staff on proposed changes that will help protect the sustainability of our languages provision, and strengthen our offer for our students in the current challenging external environment.”

The University of Sheffield course is unique in offering students the opportunity to reach near fluency in up to three languages, with a very high standard of specialist language teaching, dedicated grammar and translations, and four hours a week per language.

There are also a wide range of cultural modules which make the Sheffield University course stand out. It is important the University maintains this quality to not fall behind other Russell Group universities.

First year student, Kitty Horne said: “We would become an outlier among other Russell Group Universities with the lowest attainment expectations and a decline in our specialist language provision. This will be detrimental to our future job prospects making us less competitive with alumni of other universities in the job market – especially in the field of translation. Paying the £9,000 tuition fee for language classes that are readily available to other students at Sheffield as a ‘free’ addition to their degree feels grossly unfair.”

The petition started by Darcey Taylor now has over 5000 signatures and is continuing to be a hugely debated topic among students and staff at the School of Languages in spite of the University denying changes will impact the students’ experience.

Written by Liv Hill

You May Also Like…

Related Posts


Social Feed

Skip to content