Scottish university scraps all single honours language degrees 

University of Aberdeen students will no longer be offered the chance to study French, Gaelic, German or Spanish on their own.

University of Aberdeen scraps all single honours language degrees Getty Images

The University of Aberdeen has scrapped all of its single honours language degrees.

Future students will no longer be offered the chance to study French, Gaelic, German or Spanish on their own.

Instead, students will have to choose a joint honours if they wish to take up a degree in languages.

On Tuesday, the University Court, the governing body of the University of Aberdeen, accepted the recommendation from the senior vice-principal Professor Karl Leydecker.

The recommendation is based on the first of three options being considered as part of a consultation on the future of modern languages.

There was concern among students and staff that the institution would go with the third option to scrap all programmes with a named language.

The university said it will now make offers to applicants for entry in September 2024 for all its modern language programmes apart from single honours degrees.

It said enrolment for single honours degrees are very low with about five students in total joining the university’s single honours programmes in languages last September. 

The university had set out three options under its consultation on the future of language classes.

  • Scrap single honours degrees in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish but require students to pass fewer courses in order to complete a joint honours.
  • Discontinue single and joint honours in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish but retain a suite of “with language” programmes.
  • Cut all programmes with a named language component completely but offer elective courses for those in first or second year.

The consultation period is being extended by a month to allow more time for discussions on ideas put forward to increase student recruitment and make the delivery of provision more efficient.

Education bosses are hoping to address the £1.5m deficit for Aberdeen’s modern languages courses this year.  

The university will now consider how it can continue to support research in modern languages including Gaelic. 

Professor Leydecker, who chairs the steering group looking at language provision, said: “The university absolutely understands how much our community and the wider public care about modern languages including Gaelic. 

“We have been heartened by the many offers of support and advice on maintaining degree programmes and the ideas that colleagues have brought forward to address their sustainability.

“We will also make concerted efforts to increase the uptake of the opportunities we offer to all our students to learn languages.  

“As a result, we’re extending the consultation period by a month to allow time for further detailed discussions on how to grow demand and address financial sustainability.   

“We have always said that we will continue to teach languages at the university. Today’s decision means that we will continue to offer joint degree programmes in modern languages, including Gaelic.  

“We have listened to the compelling arguments about the importance of language degrees, continuing to be available in the north-east of Scotland.

“As a result, before the consultation period ends, we are homing in on the first option on the table in the consultation. 

“Like others in the sector, our University has a very challenging period to weather but we are working to build firm foundations to ensure a bright long-term future ahead with language provision an important part of that.” 

Jo Grady, general secretary for the University and College Union, said: “The employer has blinked. They are moving under the pressure that the campaign to save language teaching at Aberdeen has built. But it is not enough.

“There should be no cuts to provision and no cuts to jobs.

“It’s been inspiring to see everyone come together on this. We need to keep going.”

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