Letter: Student fees: nation must foot the bill

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Sir: I congratulate The Independent for opening a debate on university education in your leading article of 19 July and in particular I commend the subtlety of the challenge. Among the telling points are some carefully inserted silly ones, obviously designed to provoke response. I especially like the deliberate anachronism in the doubt whether an arts degree is an adequate preparation for a commercial career, and the clever choice of Spanish (of all subjects) to illustrate the problem.

If you learn Spanish you can advertise your products to over three hundred million people in their own language, and you can trade more directly with some 25 different countries. You can also address the huge and growing Spanish-speaking population of the US though their more intimate culture.

Spanish departments these days teach courses designed to meet the demands of the next century. My own department includes modules on commercial Spanish and Spanish in business, with a qualification presented by the Madrid Chamber of Commerce. It supplements language study with "cultural" elements such as Spain since the death of Franco, ETA, Argentina and the Falklands/ Malvinas Islands, and society and development in Latin America. This is not to say that we teach only what is commercially viable, but that we give students the opportunity to choose "preparation for a commercial career".


Professor of Hispanic Studies

University of Hull