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UCU to fight closure of history & language courses at Aston University

16 April 2021 | last updated: 19 April 2021

UCU launched a petition against the closure of the department of history, languages and translation at Aston University.

The launch comes after Aston University UCU members voted unanimously to resist the department's closure at a branch meeting.

Aston University has told staff that at least 24 jobs are at risk of redundancy due to its plans to close the department. Closure would mean over 10 undergraduate courses being cut, including BScs in international business & modern languages, history & politics, and history & English literature. Around 220 students currently study within the department. The university wants to close the department to new students from September 2022, with all courses set to finish by 2026.  

UCU said the closure would be an act of reckless academic vandalism, and would also lead to highly rated courses like English being impacted due to joint teaching and staff research interests. The union added that the cuts would severely undermine the university's commitment to social mobility, which had helped it win The Guardian's university of the year 2020.

Staff at risk of redundancy include those involved in community engagement projects to remove language barriers and improve public health. The West Midlands arm of the national outreach programme 'routes into languages' is also at risk. Under the department's leadership, this programme has reached more than 15,000 underserved students in 455 schools in the region. The department recently held a panel discussion with TV-historian David Olusoga entitled 'Do Black Lives Matter in British History'. This was Aston University's most popular ever event open to the general public, with more than 2,000 registered participants.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'UCU members have unanimously voted to resist Aston University's closure of its department of history, language and translation. We will not allow the university to throw its students, staff and Birmingham's local community under the bus by ending this provision. The closure would be a reckless act of academic vandalism, not only threatening the jobs of at least 24 staff, and impacting over 200 students that currently study within the department, but also putting the excellent work its staff have done to widen participation at risk.

'It is very worrying that Aston is willing to undermine its reputation for social mobility by closing this key department. The university needs to urgently rethink. UCU will defend the department and our members' jobs.' 

You can sign Aston UCU's petition here

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