Following its three year cancellation, the ANU is reinstating the Diploma of Languages for 2021 after the Federal Government reversed its proposed cuts to Commonwealth-funded places. 

The Diploma of Languages is a one-year undergraduate degree offered by the ANU’s College of Arts and Social Science, to students who are either studying or graduated from an undergraduate degree. It gives students the option to study Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Persian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Thai, Urdu or Japanese. 

The course’s convenor for 2021, Dr Ashok Collins, told Woroni that the ANU is delighted to reinstate the Diploma, particularly because it fits into ANU’s broader strategy as the leading tertiary provider of languages in Australia. However, in the 2020 QS World University Rankings, ANU has slipped to third in Australia for modern languages from first place in 2017, now below the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. 

Dr Collins told Woroni that the Diploma is an “excellent way for students from diverse disciplines to be able to include a language in their degree”. He has also informed Woroni that the course would run as it did previously, and that students would be able claim credits from courses already taken.

In 2018, the Federal Government announced that the Commonwealth funding for sub-bachelor places (such as diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees) would be cut. Specifically, it announced that it would cut funding to 533 language diplomas including the Diploma of Languages, as a part of an effort to shift funding into more vocational courses. As a result, the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences announced that they would no longer run the course. 

At the time, the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, MP Karen Andrews said that these changes were made to focus on courses that are “of a national priority, align with the industry needs, contribute to addressing skills shortages and lead to employment outcomes”. 

However, the Federal Government has decided against its threatened budget cuts. This is following a campaign to reinstate the degree’s Federal funding run by the Diploma of Languages Working Group, made up of the ANUSA Education Committee, College of Asia and the Pacific and the College of Arts and Social Science. The ANU CASS reps told Woroni that “the credit really does belong with the students who were directly affected who made their voices heard to the university and the government”, as well as especially highlighting the work done  by former CAP reps who did “a great job pioneering this issue”. 

This campaign argued that the study of language is valuable in its own right, but also that the intent of the budget cuts were to deter non-vocational diplomas that were not useful, whereas the Diploma of Languages has a lot of use in an increasingly globalised world. The campaign included a number of Facebook posts showing how students were impacted by the cancellation of the degree. 

The ANU CASS reps also highlighted the significance of the Government’s change in decision: that “when students, student unions and the university itself put sustained pressure on the government it is possible to overturn what are horrendous attacks on tertiary education”, characterising the backflip as “an example of how student unions can effectively organise to oppose systemic cuts from the federal government to our nation’s universities”.  

While most students are pleased with the Government’s decision, it means that many may have to reconsider their plans for their degrees. For example, students who had planned to add a Diploma of Languages later in their degree prior to the budget cuts but are graduating this year may feel as if they have missed their chance. They have the option to stay an extra year to complete this degree in 2021.

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