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La Trobe University's Hindi program at risk of being axed

La Trobe University Campus Source: Bridietmckenzie CC BY-SA 4.0

Victoria’s La Trobe University is considering disestablishing its Hindi language program, the second program of its kind in Australia after one by the Australian National University.

There is a proposal by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University to disestablish its Hindi language program, SBS Hindi has learned.


Highlights:

  • La Trobe University is considering disestablishing some language programs including Hindi.
  • After ANU, La Trobe is the only university in Australia that offers Hindi courses.
  • Universities are under financial pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Ian Woolford, a lecturer at the Hindi department confirms there is such a proposal.

“The proposal was announced today to eliminate the Hindi program along with also the Greek language and Indonesian language,” Dr Woolford told SBS Hindi.

Listen to Dr Ian Woolford in Hindi:

La Trobe University's Hindi program at risk of being axed
00:00 00:00

Dr Woolford says the university is under very dire financial circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in an unprecedented situation due to Covid-19. International students are not able to come to Australia as the international borders are closed. This has left the universities in a serious financial crisis. Consequently, the programs like Hindi, Greek and Indonesian are under threat,” said Dr Woolford.

Dr Ian Woolford
Dr Ian Woolford
Supplied

Economic impact of the pandemic

Universities were not covered by the federal government’s JobKeeker program which left many higher educational institution under financial pressure.

More than 12,000 people have lost their jobs at Australian universities according to figures by the National Tertiary Education Union.

This is a kind of attack on education.

Dr Woolford terms not including universities in JobKeeper program as an ‘attack on education.’

“Our universities are massive employers and contribute significantly to the economy. And yet, the government in Canberra decided to leave them out of the JobKeeker program. This is a kind of attack on education.”

La Trobe’s Hindi Program

La Trobe University in Victoria in only second university in Australia that offers Hindi language courses after ANU, Canberra.

University’s Hindi program is unique in its structure as it offers Hindi classes from beginners level to Higher level.

Dr Woolford says it is one of the important defining characteristics of university.

“I am devastated by this because Hindi program is one of the things that makes La Trobe university unique in Victoria. It is one of the important defining characteristics of university that connects us not just to India but to a crucial and important part of our community in Australia,” said Dr Woolford.

Gopika Bhasi wins Shah Rukh Khan La Trobe University research scholarship
La Trobe is the first Australian University to award Mr Khan with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)
Supplied

Many in the Indian community are shocked by the news.

Melbourne-based Deepak Joshi urges the university to reconsider.

"I urge the La Trobe University to make such decisions after proper consultations with the key stakeholders, especially the Indian community. Dr Ian Woolford has done some amazing work to build this program and its closure will be a big loss to Australian university education," said Mr Joshi.

The departments under threat have two weeks to respond to the proposal.

Ian Woolford, an American who speaks flawless Hindi and is very popular among Hindi speakers in India also, says he is preparing the response along with his other colleagues to save the program.

“I am fighting a battle for Hindi,” says Dr Woolford.

Feature
English language teacher Santina Sculli from LA Trobe University leading an English class

University's response

The university says these changes are part of its response to the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Market demand and student enrolments for Hindi Studies have been very low for several years. In 2019, nine students enrolled for first year Hindi. Only three of these students continued their study this year,” officials told SBS Hindi.

“Accordingly, a change proposal has been released which, subject to the outcomes of staff consultation, may regrettably result in La Trobe closing the teaching of our Hindi language programs from 2022.”

The university says all current students on the course will have the opportunity to complete their degrees and will be supported in the transition.

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