Staff at Aberdeen are balloting for potential strike action in response to the decision to cut single-honours degrees in modern languages.
The University and College Union (UCU) ballot opened on Wednesday and will run until February 7. This comes after the UCU claimed around 30 jobs were at risk due to the cuts.
All members in the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture (LLMVC) at the University of Aberdeen have received letters cautioning them they are “at risk of redundancy”, as first reported in The Gaudie.
The Spanish and Latin American Society at Aberdeen launched a campaign on Instagram, promoting the #SaveUoALanguages and garnering almost 900 likes on the post. This aimed to promote attention and protest for the decision to cut funding to the LLMVC. Colleagues at the university also launched the campaign Postcards to Karl, encouraging students and supporters to write to Professor Karl Leydecker, Senior Vice President, and express their concern and outrage over the uncertain future of Modern Languages at the university.
While the campaigns were successful in raising awareness of the proposed changes, it failed to reverse the decision announced on November 30 that all single-honours degrees in Modern Languages were to be cut.
From this September, students at the University of Aberdeen will no longer be able to start single-honours degrees in Modern Languages. Those wishing to study French, German, Spanish or Gaelic must do so as part of a joint degree.
The decision follows revelations that Aberdeen are facing a £15m shortfall. Professor Leydecker stated the university needed to examine the financially underperforming courses, such as Modern Languages. This academic year, only five students began single-honours degrees in Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen.
Professor Leydecker said: “It is deeply regrettable that the provision of modern languages at the university is unsustainable in its current form, with low and falling numbers of students. It is clearly a very difficult time for staff in Modern Languages and the wider School of LLMVC.”
Vice President for Education Rhiannon Ledwell of the Aberdeen University Student Union said: “Students are furious that lecturers’ careers and their futures are at risk. The University must commit to no compulsory redundancies and to engaging in a genuine attempt to save Language degrees.”
Writing in The Gaudie, the University of Aberdeen’s student-run newspaper, Editor-in-Chief Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco said: “Now, that proud history has been jeopardised. Declining enrollment, they contend, means the department is no longer sustainable…There’s much that can be said about the commercialisation of education. Indeed, the current crisis is predicated by a significant financial miscalculation by University management.
“It’s already been confirmed that the University is also looking at changes in the Schools of Geoscience and Biological Sciences. If modern languages are neglected and degree programmes discarded – it is the beginning of the end for less profitable departments.”