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To Senior Management, Students are Undeserving of a Voice

How student voices have been downplayed by SMT.


By Avery Demarco


pic of a sign that says Save UOA Languages
save UOA languages

The news that Head Vice Principal Leydecker and Chief Financial Officer Mark White would be present for questions at November 27th AUSA AGM Reconvened drew a reported crowd of 300 students both in-person and online, all eager to inquire about the increasingly dire situation faced by Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen. However, a grim realisation filled the room as soon as it dawned on participants that the VP would only be joining online via Teams.


Now, after almost three weeks of chaos and confusion, the Senior Management Team has pushed forward one of their agendas without completing the consultation process – a process which has seen no input from student and very little from staff, whom are about to see their programmes and jobs cut.

Though the University’s Senate voted overwhelmingly to halt the ongoing consultation, alongside the numerous demonstrations that have been held by the UCU, AUSA, and student activists such as the ‘Wet Paint,’ the decision made by the Court has managed to shock everyone at Aberdeen. Despite approving an extension of the consultation process for another month, their assertion of option one— scrapping single honours in favour of joint honours language programmes—threatens numerous staff positions and student learning across the University. In all, it is the Senate who should have the final say in Modern Languages’ fate. Management seems poised to ignore their decision and instead hammer through their own agenda, in complete disregard of due process.


Leydecker - almost certainly aware of the heat on him - has bypassed opinion in attempt to assert full Managerial control, in leu of the students who have been showing up for rallies, forums, and other protests in hope that they would be heard in an ever-increasing vacuum. He proved throughout the AGM that University leads do not care for the concerns of its own student body, spending over a half hour defecting questions, denying reports, and eventually confirming that students would not be part of the steering committee (one that would determine the fate of the only Modern Language degrees in Scotland’s northeast). In the following weeks, there has been little to no engagement by him or anyone from Management with the student body.

The reports presented by Senior Management are at odds with the overall budget of the University. While Modern Languages have seen a slight decrease in new students following both Brexit and the pandemic, all schools across campus have experienced a drop in application numbers to the same degree, especially in concern with foreign students. The focus by SMT on just Modern Languages shows both mismanagement and the inability to rectify its own budget with the performance of LLMVC - which taken into consideration - shows a steady engagement in all programmes, all year.


The lack of forwardness presented by Leydecker, bolstered by his unwillingness to attend student meetings face-to-face, blatantly reveals the unpopularity of the move. Already the concerns have gone beyond the bounds of campus: mainstream media, Holyrood, Westminster, and foreign consulates have all voiced their concern for the future of Aberdeen if language learning is to be neutered. What is clear is that such a deeply troubling escalation is now being conducted within a SMT echo chamber unwilling to listen to those who it will most effect.


Students have been inquiring everything from Senior Management pay cuts to an inflated marketing budget, pressing the team over the low morale faced at the current time. Both students and staff alike are wary of the threats to SGSAH funding, if advisors were to be let go by the University. In all these, Management proved to show no concern for those who have confronted him. Leydecker—often acknowledging the ‘difficult time’ started by his team—is still unwilling to offer any sort of tangible support or sympathy to the students he dismissed almost three weeks ago. Numerous polls conducted by The Gaudie show a growing call for the SVP’s resignation.


If the cuts manage to go through, Aberdeen would become the only ancient university not to offer single honours language degrees. It would also mean that there would be no university in Scotland’s northeast offering these programmes; meanwhile the Scottish government has made many new commitments towards the 1+2 modern foreign language programmes, that are being implemented in primary schools. A reduction in language learning in any capacity would not only cause prospective students to look elsewhere but would fail to prepare a new generation of language teachers for the region. Already, many students have voiced their intention to transfer to other universities, a reality that management has said they would like to prevent.


In final remarks to irate participants during the AGM, Leydecker noted that one thing senior management valued was the word-of-mouth spread of the University’s success by those who attend, showing an inability to read the room of students who were already at the end of their patience. Encapsulating the insular approach by his team, Leydecker has continuously revealed to all that the University of Aberdeen is not a school for students, but one for sole accumulation of profit at the expense of education, culture, and tradition.

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