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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

UoA Language Degrees to be cut if management plan approved

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

University chiefs have launched a voluntary severance scheme alongside the consultation

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Students gathered outside King's College Thursday afternoon

Language programmes at the University of Aberdeen are slated for closure-

if plans by senior management are approved. 

Students and staff will have until 15 January to provide their views on the proposals.

Senior Vice Principal Karl Leydecker pointed to falling enrollment and low recruitment numbers across the department as rationale for the closures.

Head of School Chris Collins informed staff that management's "default" plan would see the closure of all joint and single honours degree programmes.

Per a University press release, the following options are being considered:

  1. Discontinue single honours in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish and rationalise the programme offering to reduce the number of courses required to deliver the remaining joint honours provision. This option might also encompass a reduction in the number of languages offered to three or two languages. 

  2. Discontinue single and joint honours French, Gaelic, German and Spanish programmes but retain a suite of ‘with language’ programmes (for example, International Business with French). 

  3. Discontinue all programmes which have a named language component but continue to offer language courses that could be taken by students as elective courses where this can be accommodated in their degree programme. This would typically be at first year and to a lesser extent second year level of studies. 

Staff have been told that option three is the preferred option of senior management.

Voluntary Severance Scheme Launched

Management also launched a severance scheme aimed at securing early retirements and voluntary redundancies. 

The Gaudie understands that ALL members of staff in the Modern Language department have been sent letters warning they are "at risk of redundancy."

The letter, from Professor Collins, reads:

"We now write to notify you that your post has been identified as being at risk of redundancy. "

When asked how many jobs were at risk, a University spokesperson said: "The consultation process will consider the options set out in the proposals and the consultation outcome will determine future staffing needs."

In a statement, Vice Principal Leydecker commented:

“It is deeply regrettable that the provision of Modern Languages at the University is unsustainable in its current form, with low and falling numbers of students.

“It is clearly a very difficult time for staff in Modern Languages and the wider School of LLMVC. A range of support is being provided.” 

Vice Principal Leydecker clashed with members of staff on multiple occasions throughout the forty-five minute session.

Lecturers were particularly aggrieved by a supposed lack of transparency, as management refused to record or minute the meeting. Additionally, concerns were raised over the process and timeframe of the consultation.

Students demonstrate in support of lecturers

Ahead of the announcement,  several dozen language students protested outside KCF7 in King's College Quad. Holding banners and signs, students entered the staff-only meeting to thunderous applause.

Speaking after news of the consultation emerged, AUSA VP for Education Rhiannon Ledwell, herself a Gaelic and Archaeology student, told us she would continue to fight to save the department. 

Rhiannon said: “We do not accept any of the proposals laid out today. We are still committed to protecting our language degrees and staff jobs. The University has manipulated statistics to justify their narrative.

“We will be putting in the work senior management should have done themselves, and will be presenting a range of other proposals. We are furious at the rejection of our request for student representation on the steering group, and of our request to extend the consultation period. 

“We are working in partnership with LLMVC staff and UCU on this issue, and we will continue to update you once further actions are planned. 

“We request the support of all students, staff, alumni, donors, and community members to put pressure on the University.”

Meanwhile, members of the University Senate have secured an emergency session to discuss the closures on 6 December, ahead of a scheduled Court meeting the following week.


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