On March 26, Continuum College at the University of Washington (UWCC) announced its intention to close the International English Program (IEP), the flagship program of the University’s internationally respected International and English Language Programs (IELP), resulting in the job losses of many long-term University employees.

The timing of this announcement could not have been more insensitive. Frantically working to prepare for remote delivery of our courses for Spring Quarter, worrying about friends and family and our own health, we have been told that we now face the loss of our jobs, benefits and ultimately our profession. 

We believe UWCC’s decision is grossly ill-judged and irresponsible at this time of global crisis.

The stated pretext for the closure is that the program is running at a loss. However, we believe any loss is primarily due to the burden of the cost of administration. In 2018 and 2017 UWCC took almost 70% of IEP student tuition, charged as overheads for “administration”. Further, how UWCC uses the money is opaque and inconsistent.

Full-time programs in UWCC are being taxed out of existence, without any transparency or accountability. It is wrong to view the provision of education primarily as a means to support an administration.

There is no honest intent by UWCC leadership to involve the faculty and staff in creating any solutions to keep the program open. The leadership has gone through the motions with their obligation to meet with employees regarding a potential closure without showing any genuine willingness to turn the situation around.

Intensive English Programs at the UW have existed for over 40 years and successfully weathered previous economic, political and financial crises. For the past several years, UWCC leadership has ignored the input of current faculty and staff—many with over 20 years of service including leadership and administrative positions. In fact, there has been a disengagement in effective efforts to strengthen the program. The only crisis is a crisis of mismanagement.

Closing the IEP destroys longstanding fulltime jobs and removes the ability of our members to support themselves and their families and reflects a disturbing trend toward the “gigification” of education.

While our faculty and support staff are to be laid off, higher paid management positions are retained.

What does the UW stand to lose?

The UW risks damaging its global reputation and its ability to support the wider UW community in addition to its students by discarding its English language instructors and closing a ‘gateway’ for many talented students into the UW community. We believe UWCC’s decision to close the program runs counter to the University’s core values and its reputation as one of the best places to work in the state.

UW Continuum College is clearly failing in its custodianship of International English Language Programs, we are therefore calling on the University to:

  • Halt any planned job losses withing the IEP
  • Agree to an independent audit of UWCC’s accounting and financial practices 
  • Urgently investigate the UWCC’s management of International and English Language Programs through the relevant committees of the Faculty Senate and examine how to better maintain and expand its English language support of students and the UW community