The future of Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen

The future of Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen

A steering group established to consider the future of Modern Languages provision at the University of Aberdeen today (Thursday 30 November) outlined three options that are now out to staff for consultation.

The need to review provision in Modern Languages within the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture (LLMVC) has arisen due to: 

  • A steep fall in the numbers of undergraduates studying Modern Language degrees UK wide and at Aberdeen and low numbers of postgraduates studying languages. This is a long-term trend despite significant efforts by staff at the University and national initiatives over many years to halt the decline in uptake of Modern Languages in secondary schools and higher education.  

  • Particularly low recruitment to undergraduate Modern Languages programmes at Aberdeen in September 2023: 27 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students, falling from 46 FTE in 2022 and 62 FTE in 2021. 

  • High staff numbers (37 staff – 28.83 FTE) relative to student numbers means that income does not cover even the direct costs of staff delivering Modern Languages provision before any central costs (such as Library, IT, Student Services, Estates), leading to a projected deficit for Modern Languages of £1.64m in 2023/24. 

The consultation sets out three options for the future of provision in Modern Languages: 

  1. Discontinue single honours in French, Gaelic, German and Spanish and rationalise the programme offering to reduce the number of courses required to deliver the remaining joint honours provision. This option might also encompass a reduction in the number of languages offered to three or two languages. 

  1. Discontinue single and joint honours French, Gaelic, German and Spanish programmes but retain a suite of ‘with language’ programmes (for example, International Business with French). 

  1. Discontinue all programmes which have a named language component but continue to offer language courses that could be taken by students as elective courses where this can be accommodated in their degree programme. This would typically be at first year and to a lesser extent second year level of studies. 

During the period of consultation, a series of meetings will be held with staff in the School to discuss the options set out in the consultation, and to gather their feedback. We will also be engaging with student representatives from the School. 

It is the firm intention that the University will continue to offer students the opportunity to learn languages at the University, and all three of the options set out in the consultation will ensure this is the case. 

Whatever decisions are taken following the consultation regarding the future provision of Modern Languages, the University will ensure that any students currently enrolled on programmes in Modern Languages will be able to complete their programmes of study.  

Professor Karl Leydecker, University Senior Vice-Principal, chairs the steering group. He said: 

“It is deeply regrettable that the provision of Modern Languages at the University is unsustainable in its current form, with low and falling numbers of students. The Steering Group looks forward to engaging with the School to explore the options through the process of consultation before reaching final conclusions on our future provision.” 

“It is clearly a very difficult time for staff in Modern Languages and the wider School of LLMVC. A range of support is being provided.” 

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