Languages also hit by budget cuts

29th May 2009 at 01:00
University languages departments remain upbeat about their future, despite cutbacks at Edinburgh University

Hundreds of students and staff staged a protest at Edinburgh University on Monday over a proposed Pounds 400,000 cut to languages funding over two years. A day later, however, there was a more optimistic mood at a meeting of the University Council of Modern Languages Scotland - although storm clouds are gathering in England.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is concerned about the long-term health of modern languages departments. Oxford University has had to cut its modern languages budget by Pounds 1 million for 2009-10, while Imperial College London students have been protesting about cuts.

Staff at Edinburgh University's Division of European Languages and Cultures found out earlier this month that their budget was being cut by Pounds 400,000 over two years.

They said this would likely lead to the termination of foreign language assistant contracts, increased class sizes and reduced contact time, while it would be "impossible" to renew contracts of tutors paid by the hour. Some language courses would find it almost impossible to operate.

April McMahon, vice-principal and head of Edinburgh University's college of humanities and social science, said there was "no immediate intention to cease provision in any language currently offered".

There was no plan to reduce contact hours, including for oral language classes, in 2009-10, nor to close any 2009-10 course for which students were already signed up, she said.

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