What would you like the Union to do?
I would like the Union to lobby UCL for a new policy in the University stating that language courses should be made available to postgraduate research students for free.
Furthermore, this policy should dictate that postgraduate research students should be allowed to join in with the day courses available to taught postgraduate students, as the choice of languages available during the day is larger than at the evening courses (currently the only option open to PGR students).
Why would you like to do this?
Currently foreign language provision for Postgraduate Research students is only available through expensive evening courses at CLIE and SSEES. While there is a Doctoral School grant to cover language course fees, this is competitive and students need to justify in detail the importance of the chosen language course to their research, so that the Doctoral school can determine the student’s suitability for this funding. Applicants for funding must demonstrate that the foreign language is essential to their research and that this was unanticipated at the start of their research degree. The selection of languages available as evening courses is more limited than the languages available as day courses (for example there's no evening Portuguese course). This means that a lot of PhD students who wish to learn a foreign language to help with their research at UCL, either cannot do it at all due to lack of provision or due to high costs or are burdened with high additional cost. Language provision should be covered by the tuition fees and, given the option to audit the class, would contribute to minimal additional workload.
English language courses should also be made available for free to PhD researchers needing them. It has been highlighted during the discussion of this proposal that, for example, high level of accuracy of communication in English is essential to ensure safety in environments such as labs.
Moreover, proficiency in a language other than English will broaden students' perspectives and allow them to access resources and scholarship in another language. The quality and diversity of the research done at UCL is bound to improve if the students are able to use scholarship from beyond the Anglophone sphere. It is also worth pointing out that studies have showed that speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of the brain by challenging it to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems, which in turn boosts the ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks. Hence making foreign language provision more central in UCL's postgraduate profile has the potential to positively impact on other aspects of students' academic experience.
How will this affect students?
If this policy idea is accepted by the University it will give the opportunity to all postgraduate students at UCL to develop their skills and learn a new language or improve their existing language knowledge, regardless of their financial situation. It will bring the language provision available to research postgraduate students in line with that provided to the taught postgraduate students at UCL. Further, PhD students would be an asset in the classroom for both taught students and for staff.
It is possible that if this proposal passes, the language groups would get larger, and there might be a need to set up additional groups for the most popular languages. However, many universities already have similar policies, so it should be a feasible policy to implement.