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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Izzard campaigns for languages
Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard was filmed for three years for his upcoming film Diva 51
The comedian Eddie Izzard is lending his support to a campaign to oppose the closure of two departments at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

The university council is considering closing the Drama department and the Languages, Linguistics and Translation department.

The university says a shortfall in the funding has meant it has subsidised these courses for several years.

Mr Izzard, a campaigner for languages, said the departments "must stay open".

"UEA has a reputation for pushing the boundaries - by closing the departments you are sending out a signal that says your boundaries are shrinking," said Mr Izzard, who is an honorary Doctor of Letters at the university.

"UEA must look to the future, where language and how we deal with it will become ever more crucial in the way the world communicates."

Student lobby

Students at the university are organising a lobby of senior university management on Friday. They will be handing out leaflets and performing songs and speeches.

Learning languages is important for society and particularly for young people
Gemma Cross, student

"I've been studying languages at UEA for the last four years and LLT has given me great teaching and really good facilities," said student Gemma Cross.

"Learning languages is important for society and particularly for young people. Without LLT here I am worried that the potential for many students to get a well-rounded education from UEA will suffer."

Fellow student Sarah Kemp said: "Languages are so important for future relations across the world and those of us who learn them surely have a special talent."

"Therefore closing such a fantastic and friendly school would really damage the university's reputation as a whole."

The university said it was continuing to recruit students to both areas of study for the intake in September 2004 and would provide existing and incoming students with a "comprehensive service to meet the academic requirements of their degree course".

But a spokesman said the "ongoing and significant" shortfall in the funding available for these courses had meant the university subsidising these courses for several years.

"The government's decision not to fund additional student numbers for higher education means that it is not possible to resolve the funding shortfall by recruiting additional home/EU students," the spokesman said.

"Students in the areas concerned have been informed to reassure them that they will be able to complete their current courses of study."

Final decisions will be made by the university council in July.

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