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TUC conference backs fight to save Deaf Studies degree at Bristol University

19 May 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Delegates at the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) disability conference in London today unanimously backed calls from UCU to campaign to save a degree programme in Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol.

The emergency motion at the start of the two-day conference stated it was an outrage to shut one of the few degree courses in Deaf Studies in the UK. The union says the degree – the first of its kind in the UK - has outstanding national and international reputations. Its graduates go on to work as sign language interpreters and in other key professionals roles in the deaf community.
UCU says there is very little evidence that the university has done a proper equality impact assessment and is considering challenging the decision as a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. The union says that the university is ignoring the views of the wider deaf community, which has been highly critical of the plans.  An online petition to save the degree has already gathered nearly 5,000 signatures.
Nine members of staff at the Centre for Deaf Studies where the course is taught - seven of whom are deaf - are set to lose their jobs if the plans go ahead. However, staff at the centre fear that if their flagship degree goes then the centre becomes much more vulnerable.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We are delighted that TUC delegates have unanimously backed the campaign to save Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol. They, like us, recognise the incredible work the staff in the centre do delivering one of the only degree courses in deaf studies.
'Closing the course would have ramifications for deaf people throughout the country. The options available to people wishing to learn sign language, or how to teach it, would also be massively reduced. We are unconvinced that the University of Bristol has carried out its duties under disability legislation and are looking at how best to challenge them. In the meantime we want as many people as possible to sign the petition and raise awareness of the campaign.'
The TUC motion called on delegates to join a Facebook group opposing the cuts and sign a petition.