UNC, Duke Combining German Graduate Programs

Beginning in fall 2009, graduate students of German at UNC and Duke will be members of both universities’ communities. The UNC and Duke trustees have approved the merger of the two programs in hope of creating a larger, stronger program amid national reports that German language programs are growing much more slowly than those in Spanish, Japanese and Arabic. Some are shutting down.

The joint doctoral program, conceived and proposed by faculty members, will be called the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies. Beginning in fall 2009, students will take courses at both schools, and their degrees will come from both. The program will have 16 faculty members. The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that between six and eight students enroll in the program each year.

Ann Marie Rasmussen, associate professor of German at Duke and former chair of German there, said the merger can accomplish things neither institution could do independently. She said many people assume the decision was forced on the departments by the administrations when, in truth, the movement was faculty-driven.

“We had established really good working relationships among the faculty, on many different levels over many years,” she said. “German studies is undergoing a lot of change across the U.S. in the landscape of academia.”

Rasmussen cited the Robertson Scholars program, the joint Carolina-Duke undergraduate scholarship venture, for clearing a path for this type of merger.

A 2006 survey by the Modern Language Association found interest in Arabic and Asian languages soaring, while German, along with French and Russian, were growing only slightly.

In June, Inside Higher Education reported that the University of Southern California had eliminated its German department and that the graduate program at the University of Florida had frozen admissions.

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