University staff to vote on strike action over language course changes

The University and College Union has said job losses could follow the decision to axe single degrees in French, German, Spanish and Gaelic.

Aberdeen University staff to vote on strike action over language course changes iStock

Staff at Aberdeen University are being balloted over potential strike action after the institution decided it will no longer offer single degrees in modern languages.

The University and College Union (UCU) says about 30 people are at risk of redundancy due to the changes, which will mean students will not be able to start degrees in French, German, Spanish or Gaelic alone.

In December, the university court made the decision based on a recommendation from the senior vice principal, Professor Karl Laydecker.

It means that, from the next academic year, those wishing to study the languages at Aberdeen University will have to do so as part of a joint degree.

The university’s management said low uptake of the courses meant the current model is not sustainable.

A UCU ballot on industrial action is opening on Wednesday and will run until February 7.

UCU branch chair, Dr Rachel Shanks, said: “Modern languages is a key part of any university.

“Cutting single honours degrees from the university would mean students in the north and north-east having to leave the region to study their subject.

“For an ancient institution with the history and reputation of Aberdeen to consider, this move is frankly embarrassing.

“It’s clear that this is just the start of senior management’s plans.

“It’s important that members send a clear message that we don’t accept the need for jobs to be lost and that we will stand behind and support any member whose job is threatened.”

A University of Aberdeen spokeswoman said: “Our difficulty is that this academic year, following longer term declining demand in the UK for traditional specialist language study, a total of just five students began single honours across our four modern language programmes including Gaelic.

“We understand many people care passionately about languages but in a challenging financial period for many universities, the high cost of running programmes with an average in each of just one new student a year is unsustainable.

“For this reason the university is consulting on how we develop a robust future for modern languages.

“Importantly, Court – the university’s governing body – has also confirmed that we will continue to provide joint honours programmes in which students can, for example, study French or Gaelic with history.

“Court has also extended the consultation period until mid-February. During this period, we are engaging constructively with colleagues, students and UCU.

“We are very grateful to all those who have responded to the consultation.”

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