LSA Statement in Support of Linguistics at University of Kent

The following statement is in support of our colleagues in linguistics and other disciplines at the University of Kent, where there are plans to close courses in nine areas, including English Language and Linguistics, putting 58 jobs at risk. We represent the Linguistic Society of America, an organization with several thousand members and which enjoys fraternal relations with the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.
Having studied the situation at Kent, it has become clear that the administrators’ proposed program closings are in blatant opposition to the University of Kent’s statement on ‘Our Vision and Values.’ This statement asserts that “We will be internationally known for a transformative student experience and employability outcomes regardless of background.” The projected cuts will affect negatively both students’ transformative experiences and their employability. Subjects like linguistics have a strong track record of providing transformative education to students from diverse backgrounds. At the University of Kent, “Language and Linguistics” is ranked 9/10 (highest score nationally) for value added, according to The Guardian 2024 league tables, and their degree has regularly been the key that unlocks careers in tech, health, and other STEM areas for their students.

Linguistics in particular has been instrumental in opening doors for Kent students by offering interdisciplinary training and a variety of research experiences. These opportunities have enabled undergraduates to pursue careers and further academic study in speech/language therapy, computational linguistics/natural language processing, psycholinguistics, tech sector careers (e.g. technical writing, consulting on artificial intelligence/language learning models). Moreover, Linguistics at Kent offers a summer internship program in which around 15% of their undergraduates participate regularly. That figure compares favorably with summer internships offered at American universities. In addition, they offer a for-credit class (‘Guided Research in Linguistics’) that around 65% of the Linguistics undergraduates take. Both the internship and the class involve direct research experience and training, which have been shown to increase university completion rates and employment rates after graduation.

An active research program in Linguistics at Kent has resulted in multiple grants from research councils, including the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and Arts Council England. Furthermore, the program has past and current PhD students working in areas of direct social benefit, working across regional, national and international contexts.

In summation, we urge the administration at the University of Kent to reconsider the plan to close the program in English Language and Linguistics at the University. We believe that based on the readily available evidence, they will conclude that it is in the best interest of the students’ futures and the region’s wellbeing to preserve this program.