Scot cuts may lead to mass exodus

February 16, 2001

A modern languages expert has warned of a potential exodus of Scottish students to English universities if the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council goes ahead with "cataclysmic" teaching funding plans.

The latest broadside to be fired against Shefc's consultation paper on teaching funding comes from the Universities Council for Modern Languages' Scottish branch. It says that while the Higher Education Funding Council for England is beefing up funding for teaching languages, Scotland faces almost 20 per cent less on the basis of Shefc's proposals.

Gordon Millan, chairman of the UCML Scottish branch and head of Strathclyde University's department of modern languages, said: "This is an act that borders on barbarism."

The proposals would mean the loss of £500 for each full-time equivalent student, threatening the survival of some departments and the range of languages on offer, Professor Millan said. "If people graduate without language competencies, they will find it very difficult to hold down a whole series of professional jobs in European partner countries."

The consultation paper revealed a "dangerous lack of communication" between Shefc and the Scottish Executive, which last month launched the European Year of Languages, Professor Millan said.

Alex Neil, the Scottish National Party convener of the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee, asked if the Scottish Executive would instruct Shefc to reconsider.

But enterprise and lifelong learning minister Wendy Alexander said the consultation would continue until the end of March. She expected Shefc to take account of responses before making final proposals.

A Shefc spokeswoman said: "The consultation exercise is aimed at stimulating debate about the possible consequences of this move, including any adverse impact on subjects that may be considered to be of particular importance to Scotland's future."

NoGGFGS- Phil Baty Leeds Metropolitan University could become the first university to be sued under the Human Rights Act. Ros Johnstone, a cleaning supervisor who was video-recorded by hidden cameras during her lunch breaks, is determined to sue the university for breach of privacy.

Ms Johnstone was filmed in a campus kitchen as part of a university investigation into alleged drug dealing, which found no evidence.

Because of two comments she made to colleagues during filming, Ms Johnstone was given a formal disciplinary warning by the university and was arrested by the police.

"I was disgusted to find that my personal conversations had been pawed over by university managers. I thought I was confiding in a best friend," she said.

Ms Johnstone, who still works at the university, was taped complaining about her manager, Steve Wilkinson, and commented that her husband wanted to punch him. Another time, she discussed the possibility of her husband and his friend bumping into Mr Wilkinson at a football match and wondered aloud whether they would beat him up.

Police arrested Ms Johnstone on suspicion of "conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm". They dropped the charges, but the university's own investigation led to Ms Johnstone being given a formal written warning.

"I am determined to pursue this all the way," she said this week.

Ms Johnstone has received legal advice that she has a prima facie case to sue the university under article eight of the 1998 Human Rights Act, which stipulates that "everyone has the right to respect for private and family life, his home and correspondence". The act only became enforceable in England from October 2000 but it does allow for some retrospective protection. The covert recording by the university took place in 1998.

Ms Johnstone is appealing to her union, Unison, to fund the test case, but said she was prepared to meet the cost personally and would take the case to Strasbourg under the more established European human rights laws if necessary.

The university said it was not aware of any employee preparing any legal case against it.

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