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Strike ballot opens at Aberdeen university in row over job cuts in modern languages

4 January 2024

A ballot for strike action has opened at Aberdeen university in a dispute over job cuts in the university's threatened modern languages department. The ballot will run until Wednesday 7 February and could pave the way for strike action at the university.

Members of the UCU branch at Aberdeen are being asked if they are willing to take part in strike action and action short of strike. The ballot is being held because senior managers at the university are consulting on a proposal to end single honours degrees in modern languages meaning job losses. In December the university's senate, the body responsible for academic standards in the university, called for the consultation to be halted and for senate to be given the opportunity to consider the plans. Despite this, senior managers drove their plan through the important university court meeting on 12 December 2023 meaning around 30 people remain at risk of redundancy and face a worrying start to the New Year.

There has been widespread support for retaining modern languages with the university receiving letters from the consulates of the French, German, Spanish and Italian governments. A petition defending modern languages at the university has been signed by over 15,000 people.

Aberdeen university UCU branch chair, Dr Rachel Shanks, said: 'Modern languages is a key part of any university. Cutting single honours degrees from the university would mean students in the North and North-East having to leave the region to study their subject.  For an ancient institution with the history and reputation of Aberdeen to consider this move is frankly embarrassing.

'It's clear that this is just the start of senior management's plans. It's important that members send a clear message that we don't accept the need for jobs to be lost and that we will stand behind and support any member whose job is threatened.

'The reaction against senior managers' ill-thought-out plans shows the strength of feeling and support for staff teaching and researching in modern languages. It's clear that senior managers at the university are ignoring their own students, staff and senate and bringing into question the nature of the way the university is managed.  It's time the university principal and senior managers listened to staff and students.'

Last updated: 16 January 2024