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University criticised for abruptly axing Austrian Lektor position

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

The decision came after candidate had accepted post and was in process of moving to Scotland

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

University of Aberdeen management have come under fire for axing an ‘important’ teaching post in the German department: after a candidate had already accepted the position and made plans to move to Scotland.

The 'Austrian Lektor' post has been held in the School of Language, Literature, Music, and Visual Culture since the 1970s.

The Lektor is recruited by the Austrian government as a way to promote ‘international exchange and cooperation’ with a number of UK universities.

At UoA, the Lektor had been responsible for 25% of teaching in the German department in recent years, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

Our source told us that the sack was ‘a shock to all involved,’ especially after the candidate had accepted the post and made plans to move to Aberdeen.

Staff members in the department were not consulted on the decision to cut the post, and were only informed after the decision had been made.

The decision comes as a recruitment freeze for new positions has come into effect, after a significant financial deficit was identified by University management.

Our source said: ‘[The cut] came only after the candidate had already been selected by UoA, following a lengthy application and nomination process organised by the OeAD (Austrian Exchange Service), and a signed agreement between the OeAD and the Head of School. The candidate had already been on an orientation and handover visit, and had made plans to move to Aberdeen from Austria.’

The source also told us that the loss of the position means that students will miss out on important cultural and linguistic opportunities.

‘The post leaves the German programme with a substantial loss of teaching hours, but is also far more valuable than the teaching hours alone - it represents a relationship that the university has had with Austria for a number of decades; it offers students access to Austrian culture through a native speaker who has recently lived in Austria, who has language-teaching skills and experience, and who brings enthusiasm and inspiration, acting as ambassador for their country and its culture.'

'The post is supported by the OeAD, an organisation directly funded by the Austrian government, and set up to foster international exchange and cooperation - via the OeAD post, students and staff at the university have access to a range of cultural activities organised by the OeAD.’

‘The removal of the post undermines the university's attempt to position itself as highly International (one of its core 2040 commitments), directly contradicting the university's claim that it "will continue to expand [its] networks and partnerships, and seek new opportunities for international and intercultural exchange… as it turns out, it is not Brexit that is damaging the university's international reputation and staff profile, but the university's own short-sighted response to its financial predicament.’

In response, a University spokesperson told The Gaudie:

'The University is grateful for the support it has received from the Austrian Exchange Service over many years. The low level of demand means that the University's support for the post is unfortunately no longer sustainable. Given that our partner had identified someone for the role it was appropriate to meet the costs incurred by that individual.'


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