Protect Modern Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of ManchesterI have signed the petition with the following comment.
British Association for Jewish Studies
It is with dismay that we the undersigned have learned that the University of Manchester, which boasts a proud tradition of social responsibility and engagement with global challenges, has taken a decision to withdraw its provision of degree-level modern Hebrew language teaching, along with Persian and Turkish. We fully recognise the financial difficulties facing many UK universities and the low number of students who elect to take such degrees, but we expect a world class university like Manchester to take a stand to protect vulnerable subject areas of such vital concern in the world today. We call upon the University of Manchester to reconsider this decision which will seriously impoverish the UK provision of education in Middle Eastern languages and which will have a detrimental effect on the University's international standing in Jewish Studies, in particular.
University of Manchester
The British Association for Jewish Studies is aware of the decision taken by the University of Manchester to discontinue the provision of Modern Hebrew, Persian and Turkish, and to withdraw ten Middle Eastern Studies degree programmes. We write now to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider this decision and reinstate this important provision of Jewish Studies and related subjects.
Academic colleagues across the UK are well aware of the financial constraints faced by universities in light of student numbers. However, the University of Manchester is currently internationally renowned for its provision in Jewish Studies, something to be proud of at a national level. We would appeal to you to reconsider the importance of preserving and protecting this small yet distinguished subject area, and retaining the associated staff.
The British Association for Jewish Studies is firmly of the opinion that universities have a responsibility to protect so-called ‘minority’ subjects and ensure their continued intellectual vitality, especially as they remain central to the wider advancement of knowledge and understanding of global challenges. We need only look at current world affairs to see the importance of academic study on the Middle East. If key language provision of education in such areas is lost, we risk reducing expertise in and engagement with the Middle East. There is a moral imperative for universities such as Manchester to continue to provide education and language training for the next generation of scholars and policy makers in such a crucial sphere of world affairs.
As a national association, we conduct an annual survey of Jewish Studies related teaching in the UK, and we are therefore well placed to advise you that your decision will have serious implications for the future development of the academic field of Jewish Studies. The fact that student numbers are small – and they are small everywhere in the UK – only makes it more likely that the closure of modern Hebrew and related degrees at one of the key providers of Jewish Studies in the UK will inevitably result in fewer experts in the field, and, as such, there will be a long term impact on the number of research-active staff in Jewish Studies at Manchester and in the UK more generally.
In addition, the closures could have a serious impact on the research activity of the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester, a world-leading institution. A reduced presence in teaching may be understood as a reduction of activity in Jewish Studies and related subjects, thus making it harder to attract the best scholars and funding success. At the very least, the closures would be interpreted as a reduced commitment to Jewish Studies and related subjects at Manchester, and would not reflect well on the UK’s position in Jewish Studies.
Jewish Studies at Manchester has always been highly respected both nationally and as a world-leader in the field, and is one of the principal providers of Jewish Studies in Higher Education in the UK. As you are no doubt aware, our annual conference will take place at the University of Manchester this year. We are extremely concerned about the high profile impact of your decision on Jewish Studies at a national level, and also on the reputation of the University of Manchester and the UK as world-leading providers of such subjects.
We implore you to reconsider this decision.
Although the subjects are specialized and no doubt attract a small number of students, their importance, both social and historical, far outweighs the limited size of the programs. It is hard to think of a worse moment in history for a major university to decide that it should be investing *less* effort in understanding the Middle East. Moreover, the University of Manchester has an excellent and well-earned reputation in Jewish Studies and it should be building on this rather than diluting it.Please follow the link above and sign the petition too.