Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 16:28 UK

Protest held over language cuts

Old College at Edinburgh University
The protest was held outside the university's Old College

A demonstration has taken place at Edinburgh University in protest at potential cuts to language departments.

Students, staff and politicians have backed the protest against an alleged £400,000 funding cut to the European Languages and Cultures division.

The university has admitted it is having to tackle a funding deficit, but has claimed there are no immediate plans to reduce provision.

The hour-long protest began at 1230 BST at the university's Old College.

Student activist Oliver Mundell said about 400 people participated in the event, exceeding the expected turnout of 300.

He said 20-30 academic staff were present, despite the university asking them not to attend.

Modern languages are undeniably a crucial part of our university and it is simply shameful to see them eroded in this way
Adam Ramsay
Edinburgh University Students Association

The organisers claimed a decrease in funding by £200,000 over each of the next two years would mean the termination of contracts for foreign language assistants, leaving students without essential oral tuition.

Students have also said they are worried they will be in larger classes and have less time with lecturers and tutors, and that they were particularly concerned over the future of minority subjects such as Russian and Portuguese.

Adam Ramsay, president of the university's student association, said: "Modern languages are undeniably a crucial part of our university and it is simply shameful to see them eroded in this way, not only in our university but in others across Scotland and the UK.

"But it is clear to me that staff and students won't stand for this and we will fight these cuts."

However, the university said there was no plan to reduce contact time between students and staff, including for oral classes in the next academic year.

It also said there was no intention to close courses announced for 2009/10.

Funding decision

It is understood that university representatives told students at a meeting on Monday morning that there would be no funding cuts in the next academic year.

It also said funding cuts in subsequent years could be avoided if the department was able to generate more money from tuition fees by taking on more postgraduate students - who pay higher fees.

A decision on exactly where any cuts will be made is expected to be made at the end of June.

A spokeswoman for the university said: "We are currently engaged in discussions with staff, unions and student representatives on how best to address a deficit in funding for modern languages which has come about primarily as a result of the latest Research Assessment Exercise, which plays a key role in determining funding levels for university departments.

"We are committed to maintaining as wide a range of language teaching as our funding will allow."

Higher education institutions across the UK, including the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee, have been hit by similar cuts.

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