STAFF and students from Aberdeen University took part in a rally on Monday evening to protest against cuts to the modern languages department at the university.

The rally was organised by the Aberdeen University branch of the University and College Union (UCU), and Aberdeen University Students’ Union (AUSU).

UCU general secretary Jo Grady spoke at the rally, as well as Maggie Chapman MSP and AUSU vice-president for education, Rhiannon Ledwell.

This comes as more than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling on the university’s senior management to rethink their plans to axe the modern languages department.

Senior management announced a consultation to cut the provision of modern languages at the university which included proposals to end modern languages degrees.

Last week the university’s senate – the body in charge of academic matters in the university – called for the consultation to be halted until they had the opportunity to consider the academic impact of the proposed cuts.

UCU has said it has opened a consultation with its members on their next steps, as it disputes the need for cuts.

READ MORE: Foreign Office to leave Scottish base where 1000 staff work

Speaking at the rally, Jo Grady, said: “Teaching and research in modern languages is an integral part of a university. These plans could leave Aberdeen as the only ancient university in the UK to not offer modern language degrees which says much about management at Aberdeen University, and their lack of ambition for the university and North-East Scotland.

“We know from the many interventions from European consulates, politicians, professional bodies, staff and senators, and from students that modern languages at Aberdeen is valued and that the staff that deliver that work should be invested in rather than face losing their jobs.

“UCU negotiators will be engaging in the consultation process to save jobs and to save modern languages at the university.

“I’ve seen nothing over the past two weeks to change my mind that this is academic vandalism and that’s why we’re fighting back in Aberdeen and elsewhere and why we’ve set up a local defence fund so that no member or branch stands alone.”

The National:

Maggie Chapman criticised the consultation, adding that “it sends exactly the wrong message for what should be the comprehensive university for the North-East of Scotland.”

She continued: “The University of Aberdeen has a civic duty to the city and to the wider region to be an institution that covers all academic disciplines, providing rigorous and really important degree programs for students from the region, and equipping the next generation with the skills and tools that are going to be so necessary as we try to deal with the global crises we face.

"I also feel for all those members of staff who received notices of redundancy in the run-up to Christmas. University management should feel shame for the way they have treated them and their students.”

The consultation announced in November is to explore three options for the future of provision at the School of Language, Literature, Music and VIsual Culture (LLMVC).

These include:

  • Scrapping single honours degrees in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish and reduce the number of courses required to deliver joint honours programmes
  • Scrap single and joint honours degrees in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish but continue “with language” programmes such as International Business with French
  • Scrap all language programmes with a named language but offer a language as an elective course in first or second year

Ahead of the rally, the University of Aberdeen said it “will continue to teach and value languages” amid growing criticism.

The university said the current low uptake of language courses is causing losses of more than £1.5 million per year.

There are approximately 200 full-time educated students enrolled on Modern Languages programmes at the university.