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No Funding for Gaelic Position, says University

Students slam decision as 'colonial act' and vow to fund the role themselves

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

The University of Aberdeen has declined to provide funding for the position of Gaelic Development Officer, The Gaudie can reveal. 

The part-time role is currently funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, and was created with the expectation that the University would fund the position after a period of two years. 

However, a recent financial crunch has left University management scrambling for money-saving measures. 

Criticising the move as a ‘colonial act’, The University’s Celtic Society has written to Principal George Boyne, calling on him to reverse the decision. 

The letter states: “All other universities with a Gaelic language plan have taken it upon themselves to support such a post, and it is entirely unreasonable that we must fight so hard for the same right.”

However, it appears that University management have already made up their mind.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “The University of Aberdeen is like many others across the UK facing serious financial challenges and this requires a reduction in staff costs, along with other activity to reduce expenditure and increase our income. 

“The University has a staff recruitment freeze in place and cannot therefore commit to take on the costs of externally funded posts. 

“We recognise the excellent work to enhance engagement with and the visibility of Gaelic across our campuses and part of the objectives is to put in place measures which can continue once the external funding comes to an end.”

The current Gaelic Development Officer, Carola MacCallum, has been praised by students for her commitment to the University's Gaelic-speaking community. 

One Gaelic student noted: “When I first came to Aberdeen to study Gaelic I felt disappointed with how few opportunities there were to use and interact with the language. However Carola's work meant that by the end of my first year Gaelic events were being put on for us and this year we've all had countless opportunities to use and improve our Gaelic on and off campus thanks to her. 

“The importance of her role in building a strong Gaelic network within the university itself and also throughout Aberdeen cannot be understated.”

Craig, another student who studies Gaelic, added: “As an endangered language, any decision concerning Gaelic must be made with the utmost care, expertise and research that can only come from a dedicated Gaelic Development Officer. 

“Removing the post fundamentally undermines the university's mission to protect the Gaelic language.”

Ms MacCallum’s presence on the University’s Gaelic Language Board was also noted by students, who said she ‘kept the board on track’ in fulfilling its statutory commitments. 

Gaelic student and VP of Celtic Society Rhiannon Ledwell slammed University management for the decision, telling The Gaudie: 

“'It is shameful that the people running this University either do not understand, or do not care, that their actions do not just affect the students and staff at the University of Aberdeen—They are actively causing harm to a language and culture which has undergone hundreds of years of colonial oppression.

“Through the Save UoA Languages campaign, we have saved a significant portion of our provision, but we have still lost a lot. The irresponsible decisions of Senior Management and Court have ensured that there are now only three institutions in this country that offer a dedicated Gaelic degree, and we are losing two members of our wonderful staff. Given this, it is horrifying (though not surprising) that there are further attacks on the language.

“Due to Carola’s efforts, Gaelic has blossomed on campus in the past year, with many opportunities to use the language, and to connect with the Aberdeen Gaelic community (there are approximately 3,000 Gaelic speakers in Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire).

"We sincerely hope that SMT will want to avoid further negative publicity, and will recognise the importance of their statutory and moral obligations to protect Gaelic and support the post of Gaelic Development Officer."

Jordan Duncan, President of the Celtic Society, added: “'Against the active suppression of Gaelic [at this university], Carola has still managed to help the Celtic Society get re-established. She has been crucial in connecting the society to other areas of the University and the wider community. Connections like these will be vital in maintaining and revitalising Gaelic.”

Students have pointed to Ms MacCallum's work in developing proposals for an area-wide Gaelic Hub a further proof of her utility to the University community- and have said they will fund her position themselves if management refuses to help.

The decision comes in the wake of the Save UoA Languages Campaign, where students and staff successfully campaigned for management to remove risk of redundancy notices from more than thirty members of staff. 

Pointing to low intake, the University had scrapped Gaelic as a single degree honours programme in December, while maintaining Gaelic as a joint degree option. 


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