Former ICU President, Mustafa Arif, has said that he is "saddened" by the proposed cuts to humanities courses at Imperial in a letter published in today's issue of felix - which has also been forwarded to the Rector, Pro-Rector for Education and ICU President. Mustafa Arif was president of Imperial College Union from 2003-2005, following the degree in EEE that he studied from 1999-2003.
Arif explains that he believes that language options are an important part of making a degree from Imperial a well-rounded one, saying that "the opportunity to broaden study options was one of the reasons I, and I'm sure many other IC students and alumni, chose to go to Imperial."
He went on to point out how vital language options are in his work environment, writing "as a practising engineer I can confirm that the wide opportunity to study languages and humanities produces more rounded graduates better equipped to fulfill the leadership roles required in today's multi-disciplinary and multi-functional workplaces. It's something I've always considered just as important as the wide range of student clubs, societies and sports."
Arif warned that "language tuition is also essential to widen students' opportunities for a year abroad or overseas internship", saying that he thought that the language cuts would effectively bar anyone who hasn't studied a language before arriving at Imperial from taking up one of these placements.
Responding to the Rector's calls for privatisation of top universities in order to bring them up to the standard of America's "Ivy League" establishments, Arif goes on to say that whilst the language options available at Imperial are "unique for science students in the UK", they are not so "unique" in Ivy League institutions. Mustafa says that Imperial College only introduced a Roman History module as an option back in 2005 because the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it was their "most popular option" amongst their engineering students.
Arif thinks that classifying languages as a "soft option", as many have done in recent days, is an "extraordinary generalisation", explaining that he counts his humanities modules as "much harder than any engineering module". Arif says that the possible explanation for this is that most Imperial students "whose natural talent is in numerate, scientific disciplines find both language and essay-type subjects difficult and hard work". He says that it was, in actual fact, the management courses that many students appeared to find less worthwhile when compared to other courses within their degree.
Finally, referring to Wednesday's protest against the humanities cuts, he hopes that "students are able to reverse these plans and the College is able to find a way to keep humanities and languages alive".