12 December 2008

An Australian-first alliance between Queensland’s three largest universities will expand higher learning in a range of Asian and European languages.

With $2.27 million in Australian Government funding, The University of Queensland (UQ), Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will pool teaching of at least nine languages so that their students may learn them as part of formal studies.

Students at all three institutions - which together have about 110,000 enrolments – will be able to major in Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. So long as they study at award level at one of the three universities, they will be credited as if they were studying at their own institution.

None of these universities currently offers this range of languages.

The system will begin to roll out in 2009, following the Government’s funding announcement on Thursday, December 11.

The alliance is the first of its kind involving multiple languages and three Australian universities. It arises from a determination by the three Vice-Chancellors that major world languages must continue to be offered at university level in Brisbane, even though enrolments are in single digits at some institutions.

“If we applied accounting principles alone some of these languages would disappear from university curricula,” said UQ Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Greenfield.

“However the three universities’ bottom line is that we can’t afford to see language scholarship atrophy in Australia’s third biggest capital city.

“So we are collaborating to achieve economies of scale in order to secure the future of a diverse range of languages in our universities.”

“This alliance is the most comprehensive educational collaboration ever undertaken among our universities” said QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake.

“Together we can provide a more sustainable and wide-ranging offering of languages to our students than is possible as individual universities.

“The initiative is a good one for students seeking to study languages, and reflects our strong endorsement of the national languages agenda,” Professor Coaldrake said.

Griffith University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said the initiative would build on the university’s existing strengths in Asian and European languages.

“This is a tangible move to cater for any student who wants to develop their passion for languages by providing access and opportunity to study where it suits them,’’ he said.

To improve convenience for students who want to study a language offered by a campus that it is not their own, the universities will establish a shared web portal. Where numbers make this possible, classes will be offered on more than one campus.

The alliance builds on recent initiatives by the trio to boost interest in language education, starting at the high school level. All three have offered bonus points to school leavers applying for university who have succeeded in a language other than English in year 12.

Queensland has the lowest rate of year 12 language study of any Australian state – six percent.

“First we gave incentives to school students to study languages, and now we are expanding the language opportunities for university students – some of whom will graduate to teach languages to school children,” Professor Greenfield said.

“Language proficiency is an asset for students and graduates competing for careers in a globalised economy, and multilingualism is vital to the economic and cultural health of Australia.”

Media: Astra Dadzis at QUT (07 3138 2361), Deborah Marshall at Griffith University (07 3735 5245, 0408 727 734) or Fiona Kennedy at UQ (07 3365 1384, 0413 380 012)