Student Rep Meeting with Head of MLANG, Cardiff University, 10.12.14
On 10th December I attended a meeting with Head of MLANG School, Professor Claire Gorrara. She was giving a presentation about developments in the school and there followed a Q&A session. As student rep for first year Translation I felt that I would take this opportunity to briefly report on this meeting to the students.
Claire began by stating the strategic vision for MLANG. It is:
‘Laying the foundations for learning and teaching, research and impact and international engagement within our new school’.
MLANG is a new department that consolidates the teaching of foreign languages at Cardiff University. The old EUROP makes way for MLANG. Politics moves departments and the school incorporates Japanese that was previously taught at the Business School. The foreign languages taught to 4000 adult learners at Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning (LEARN) are drawn into MLANG and the new school allows for an expansion in languages, introducing Portuguese to the main degree program this year with a full degree in Mandarin Chinese (in partnership with Beijing Normal University) to follow in 2016.
It was an interesting footnote for us, as translation students, that the translation department is the big success story for MLANG. Enrollment of Translation courses is massively increasing year on year and the future of this section looks very bright. The trend of students to want Translation courses means that this is a growth area and the demand will be met with supply.
One of the key challenges to MLANG has been the new Languages for All (LFA) program. This has been introduced as a university-wide scheme, allowing ALL students access to free teaching of foreign languages to compliment their degree studies. The enthusiasm of students for LFA in its inaugural year has been overwhelming with over 2000 attempting to enroll for the only 900 places that were available. There are plans to increase capacity of LFA in future years. The business school will be made available for teaching after 5pm, expanding classroom space and more tutors will be brought in.
At the start of the year, 54% of MLANG classes were to occur in the MLANG building. Due to this area being an amalgamated piecing together of old Victorian family houses, it has been acknowledged that it isn’t the best of spaces. Due to disability access issues, many of the classrooms towards the rear of the building have been unfit for teaching use and so many classes are still being held in John Percival and in other spaces. There are plans for major restructuring developments. New classrooms will be brought to the front of the building and the rear will be sued for office space. Also, in an attempt to bring a more homely atmosphere to study in the MLANG department there will be new areas. The Post Graduate Research (PGR) room will be enhanced with triple the computers made available. Also, the current courtyard at the entrance of MLANG will be covered over and converted to a general multilingual undergraduate common room. Returning 4th year students recognized that there had been significant improvements to the structure of the department with not even the reception area existing prior to their year abroad. The increased social space will bring a community-focus to MLANG.
Professional focus is to be enhanced in MLANG. There is a good Student Language ambassador program available for students that will enhance their career prospects. Also, the Cardiff Award merits attention. There is to be a professional services hub where academic staff and students will be able to receive professional lifestyle support.
It was mentioned that the school had not been receiving favorable reviews in the National Student Survey (NSS) for final year students. This important market research tool gives feedback to teaching methods and facilities in the department. There is to be a drive on how to improve student feedback and activate change. After the meeting with Professor Claire Gorrara, Caroline Lynch led a ‘Task and Finish’ group on assessment and feedback. The voice of students and interaction between academics staff and pupils is critical. As reps, we were to be test guinea pigs and hopefully the feedback process will be rolled out to all students so that everyone can have their voices heard about suggestions to improve MLANG for all.
I hope that you will be encouraged by the improvements in the department that have happened or that will roll out in the immediate future. Professor Gorrara and her colleagues were enthusiastic, responsive, and I believe are leading MLANG in the right direction.