UKZN slashes language degrees Afrikaans, German to go

2014-10-23 00:00

IT’S a case of “Totsiens”, “Auf wiedersehen”, “Ciao” and a partial “Au revoir” as several language degrees are canned by the local university.

According to senior academic sources at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, an announcement was made at a university management meeting three weeks ago that several language departments would be closed at the end of the year — these include Afrikaans and Nederlands, German and Italian.

French will still be taught, but only on either the Durban or Pietermaritzburg campus.

All these departments fall under the School of Arts (SoA) which includes Zulu, English, performance studies, music and media studies. It is understood posts have also been frozen in this school.

SoA’s acting head of department Professor Johannes Smit said he could not comment on the matter.

Last month The Witness reported that the music department was under threat due to lack of funding.

In a confidential “self-evaluation report” which canvassed the opinions of SoA staff, it was stated that: “Many feel that management make decisions in a way that is completely disconnected from the teaching staff.”.

University spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the “assessment of modules is an internal matter with wide academic consultation.

“German, Afrikaans and Italian are not meeting the required student numbers.

“However, we will continue to provide the service to all students that are currently studying with us.

“In terms of best practice UKZN will continue to review its strategic operations to provide students with recognised degree programmes.”

Issues of staff and student morale have dogged the institution since the 2004 merger of the former universities of Durban-Westville and Natal and the implementation of a programme of restructuring, cost-cutting and rebranding under the current vice chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

Makgoba retires at the end of the year and will be replaced by Albert van Jaarsveld, currently CEO of the National Research Foundation.

Some academics said the latest cuts are being made before Van Jaarsveld takes office despite an earlier decision to freeze such decisions until the arrival of the new vice-chancellor.

According to sources academics affected by the closure of their departments will not be retrenched but will be “reskilled” and deployed to other disciplines.

The University Staff Union are understood to be in negotiations with the university management over the matter. They did not respond to a request for comment.

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