Closure of Modern Languages school at Coleraine ‘shortsighted’

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Coleraine Ulster Unionist councillor, William McCandless, has expressed his shock at the announcement that Ulster University is to close its School of Modern Languages at Coleraine due to budget cuts.

The move follows an £8.6m cut in the subsidy received from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

Students due to begin their modern languages degrees later this month will be able to complete them, and existing students will also be able to finish their degrees. The closure will be phased in.

About 20 staff are employed at the school which teaches subjects such as French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

On Wednesday the BBC was reporting that a third of staff jobs will be lost in the School of History with a reduction from 15 to 10 posts, and that two posts will be lost in the School of Media, Film and Journalism.

Both of these are also at the Coleraine campus but there may not be any reduction in courses offered by each school.

Councillor McCandless said: “This decision is clearly the result of the budget agreed at Stormont by the DUP and Sinn Fein but the closure of the School of Modern Languages is a desperately short-sighted decision.

“We constantly hear employers telling us that young people and graduates are seeking to gain entry to the workforce without the skills required in the modern global environment.

“Surely the ability to communicate effectively in languages such as French, German and Spanish is precisely the type of skills required to prepare graduates to take up positions in the increasingly important European workplace?

“I am also concerned as to the potential implications which this decision may have for the Confucius Institute which was officially launched just over three years ago. Europe is key to economic growth and development, but there is no question that in the 21st century the economic growth of China - already the world’s second economic power - will provide huge opportunities which we must seize.

“It is a source of great frustration that resources appear to be plentiful when it comes to attempts to promote the Irish Language which is declining in usage even in the Gaeltacht areas of the Republic of Ireland, yet we seem incapable of providing the resources necessary to enable our young people to learn modern languages which would provide them with the opportunity to work throughout the European Union and in the increasingly globalised workplace of the 21st century.”

Across Ulster University (UU) as a whole it is expected that about 185 full-time equivalent posts will go, with volunteers for redundancy expected to confirm their departure by January next year before leaving at the end of April.

Staff at the university’s Coleraine and Magee campuses were briefed about potential cuts on Tuesday, while UU staff at Belfast and Jordanstown will hear from senior management later on Wednesday.

In June, the university announced it planned to shed 210 jobs in 2015/16 and 1,200 student places over the next three years due to funding reductions.

It also announced that courses and subject areas would close in response to those cuts.

Those decisions have now been made.

The full scale of planned reductions in staffing and subjects across all four campuses are expected to be revealed by the University soon.

In a statement, a UU spokesperson, said: “The university is now advising those individuals who are likely to be affected.

“Until this briefing process has completed, it would be inappropriate to confirm any speculation around decisions relating to specific courses or subject areas.”

It’s understood that UCU will meet its members to discuss the cuts on Thursday.