Language programmes at Arts and BSS to be merged

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From the turn of the year, the language programmes at the Department of Business Communication at BSS will become part of Arts. The University Board adopted the decision last week. The faculty management team's plan to abolish the Department of Business Communication and transfer the remaining 30-40 employees to the Department of Management have met resistance from the employees and the plan has now been postponed by the board.

2016.07.01 | Lea Laursen Pasgaard

Illustration: Louise Thrane Jensen

Last week, AU's board approved a plan by Arts and BSS to move the business communication languages English, German, French and Spanish from BSS to Arts, where the language study programmes are already located. This means that from the turn of the year, students will only be able to study language programmes at a single faculty. The merger process for AU's language programmes has been underway for a long time, and the deans at Arts and BSS, Johnny Laursen and Thomas Pallesen, are pleased that the final decision about their future has now been taken.

Merger must appease growing unrest

"I’m very pleased with the result, as it means that the university performs the task of educating graduates who are much needed in society, while we also can hopefully appease the growing unrest that’s been seen – at least in a financial context – among the language programmes," says Laursen.

Thomas Pallesen agrees:

"The business communication languages in German, Spanish and French have received relatively limited applications. We hope that by consolidating the language programmes we can strengthen both the academic environment and the study environment and make applying to them more attractive."

The language programmes at Danish universities have had a difficult time over the past few years due to fewer applications, the degree programme resizing and financial cutbacks. At AU, students can no longer be admitted to Italian, and in April the University of Copenhagen decided to close down cultural and language programmes in Indonesian / South East Asian Studies, Finnish, Tibetology, Thai / South East Asian Studies and Indology, while also merging a number of other subjects.

Employees want to retain the department

However, not everyone at the Department of Business Communication will have to move to Arts at the end of the year. Those of the department's employees who work with corporate communication will remain a part of BSS. The linguists are the only ones who have to change faculty. The Dean's Office at BSS proposes that Business Communication should become a section of the Department of Management. This will de facto mean that the Department of Business Communication will cease to exist as an independent department. The employees would prefer to see the department retained and the board chose to postpone the decision at its meeting.

Thomas Pallesen sees the decision as an expression of a wish for the management and employees together to find a more unanimous platform for implementing the merger.

"There hasn’t been the will, so to speak, to choose between one or the other in this context," says Pallesen.

Dean: The department will be too small

So a new phase begins, during which employees and management must find a solution with broader support. Pallesen’s position remains that the department would benefit from a merger with the Department of Management, and he points out that during the consultation phase, several of the BSS faculty’s other employees and managers indicated that they did not think Business Communication should continue as an independent department.

"We would end up with a department that was very small, and there could be other disciplines with just as good reasons for having a small department, which is just the type of process that faculty doesn’t wish to promote. I have taken this into consideration," says the dean.

However, he is prepared give the employees the opportunity to take retain some of the things that define them academically, such as the board of studies or an employer panel. He hopes the issue will soon be clarified so that the University Board can hopefully have the item on its agenda at the board meeting on 20 October.

Transitional arrangements for current students

As of 1 January 2017, the linguists at the Department of Business Communication will become part of Arts. However, a transitional scheme will be introduced for students who are currently studying on one of BSS' language programmes, or who will begin on one after the summer holidays. They remain under the BSS academic regulations and upon graduation they will receive their exam certificate from BSS.

"Their degree programme will continue unchanged, and if there were to be any changes, they would have to be approved by the board of studies as usual. Where the students are also represented," says Pallesen.

Still two different language profiles

When it comes to the language programmes at Arts, Johnny Laursen expects that as a starting point, there will be two separate admissions, and that the degree programmes will maintain their current employment profiles, with an Arts MA programme on the one hand, and a Business Communication MSc on the other. However, there will be a large intersection of teaching within the main language in question. The dean cannot yet put a figure on how much:

"I think it would be a bit premature of me to make an announcement already now. The process of formulating the individual degree programmes begins now, where both boards of studies with the participation of the students, begin to make the necessary changes. But it has already been determined that the MSc in International Business Communication will contain a larger element of language competences than previously. In future, they will have as much language as the language students from Arts,” says Laursen.

How will you ensure that the communication students are able to retain their commercial profile when they are transferred to Arts?

"We are taking over the entire employee group, so that means we will already have ensured the research foundation and the educational experience that they have. We will also maintain a close collaboration with Business Communication, which remains at BSS," says Laursen.

Funding pool follows

The employees are not the only ones moving from BSS to Arts – a funding pool follows them. Over the next seven years, the university has allocated DKK 28 million from its strategic funds for the reorganisation, while BSS will permanently transfer DKK 10 million in basic research funding to Arts.

"Our joint finance services have gone over all the items at the department, and when you look at revenues and expenses, in almost all cases the language programme accounts for forty per cent of the department, while communication accounts for sixty per cent. Therefore, forty per cent of the department's basic research funding grants will also be transferred to Arts," says Pallesen.

Cannot cut employees in half

In response to the question of what the transfer to Arts will mean for the administrative staff and their duties, the dean states that the administrative organisation of the degree programme will still be needed, regardless of whether the employees are located at BSS or Arts. The point of departure is that the person follows the task and that this is also the case for the administrative functions.

"At the administrative centre there might be some employees whose main task has been servicing the current Department of Business Communication, or where this has been part of their duties. In such cases, you can’t just cut the employee in half. So we need to find a solution here and that is something that the administrative centre managers are looking at," says Pallesen.

Omnibus is following the situation closely and will have more next week with comments from staff and students.

Omnibus is following the situation closely and will have more next week with comments from staff and students.

Translated by Peter Lambourne.

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