Aberdeen Uni
Credit: University of Aberdeen

Staff at University of Aberdeen to strike over cuts

By Katie McKay, Odhran Gallagher

A University and College Union ballot for staff at the University of Aberdeen has returned with a mandate for strike action over proposed cuts to language degrees.

University of Aberdeen staff are expected to strike in response to plans from senior management to cut language degrees at the University. The University and College Union (UCU) Scotland’s Aberdeen branch has won a mandate for strike action and action short of strike after 80% of those who voted supported the move, on a turnout of 60 percent. 

This news comes after all staff members in the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture (LLMVC) at the University of Aberdeen received letters cautioning them they are “at risk of redundancy”. The UCU has claimed that 30 staff in total are at risk of redundancy over the cuts.

In the midst of news of the planned cuts, it has been noted on the app formerly known as Twitter that advertisements for jobs in languages departments in other Universities, including the University of Glasgow, have opened in the past number of weeks.

The Spanish and Latin American Society at Aberdeen launched a campaign on Instagram, promoting the hashtag #SaveUoALanguages and garnering almost 900 likes on the post.. Colleagues at the university also launched the campaign Postcards to Karl, encouraging students and supporters to write to Professor Karl Leydecker, Senior Vice President at the University, and express their concern and outrage over the uncertain future of Modern Languages. It has also been reported by The Gaudie, the University of Aberdeen’s student-run newspaper, that 83% of current Aberdeen students would back the strikes.

While the campaigns were successful in raising awareness of the proposed changes, they 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 as a result of a plateau in the number of international enrolments. Professor Leydecker said 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, 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.”


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Great piece folks! Thanks for covering this important issue- only thing to highlight is that only staff members in the modern language department are at risk of redundancy, not everyone in LLMVC