More than a thousand people have signed a petition urging Stormont to save the School of Modern Languages from closure at Ulster University in Coleraine.
It was announced on Thursday that Modern Languages along with Interior Design would be scrapped from the Coleraine campus due to Stormont budget cuts.
The petition on change.org says: “The loss of language courses will disadvantage Northern Ireland in the increasingly competitive global market by reducing the number of graduates familiar with these key world languages.
“It is worth noting that China is the world’s single largest market and is likely to be a key driver of foreign investment in future years. Meanwhile, Germany remains the economic powerhouse of Europe and its industries are keen to invest in locations where graduates familiar with English and German can found.
“We, the undersigned, request that you should reverse this dreadful decision to preserve the long-term economic competitiveness of Northern Ireland and maximise the supply of skilled graduates available for employment in the region.
“In addition, we request that the Ulster University should reverse cuts to its History School in view of the importance of history to regional society and cuts to its Media School given the status of the creative industries (particularly film and television) as drivers of economic activity in the region.”
UU Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon said it had been forced to act because it could not absorb any further funding reductions. The cuts also include the loss of 1,250 students places and 210 jobs.
They come after Ulster University saw its budget from the Department of Employment and Learning reduced by 10%.
In a statement yesterday Vice Chancellor Nixon said: “”We cannot absorb further cuts so now, more than ever, we must be decisive.
“We must strengthen our focus on the sustainable delivery of high-quality teaching and world-leading research that produces graduates with industry-ready, relevant skills that benefit business and society.
“As a multi-campus institution, Ulster University faces particular considerations and our decisions reflect a strategic, longer term vision, not just for each campus but for the entire institution.
“Each campus will now have specific sectoral alignments, essentially becoming centres of expertise.”
Ulster University Students’ Union President Colum Mackey said the Northern Ireland Executive has “failed to prioritise higher education” and said the University must “react to the reduction in funding”.
Independent Coleraine MLA, Claire Sugden, said she was very disappointed about the news of more job losses.
If Ulster University had a choice, I don’t believe they would have made this decision.
“A cut of £8.6M to the university is not a choice, it is an imposition of a dysfunctional government that cannot think beyond their own ends for the betterment of the people they are supposed to represent.
“Coleraine cannot afford to lose any jobs. Up to 27 jobs lost within one of our largest employers is very worrying.
“The loss of students due to an entire school closing will also have an impact on the local economy and culture. Language is an important global skill for business and encourages foreign direct investment.
“Ulster University’s forced decision is pulling the rug from beneath us. I am aware new Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon is keen to establish a closer, mutually beneficial relationship between the university and the wider Coleraine community. I fear [the] announcement will undermine opportunities for Coleraine through its local campus.
“Regrettably, I believe this is the beginning of a number of announcements across all sectors in Northern Ireland due to the inactions of the NI Executive. We deserve better.”