Students flock to death-list subjects

August 15, 2003

Supposedly unpopular academic departments facing the axe or drastic reorganisation at Durham University have recruited very strongly for next year, according to predictions based on likely A-level results.

The Durham branch of the Association of University Teachers has claimed that the affected departments - Middle East studies; European studies; linguistics; and East Asian studies - have recruited over target. The union said the university projections about student demand had been overly negative.

Martin Hughes of Durham AUT said: "It is to be regretted that these courses, of high quality and evidently popular, may now be recruiting for the last time.

"We are far from convinced that the university has properly evaluated the departments concerned and their contribution to the university and to higher education in the UK."

The university announced a repositioning strategy earlier this year to head off a £4.5 million deficit by phasing out unpopular subjects to focus on core areas.

The departmental closures, with the possible loss of 40 jobs, are intended to save up to £9 million. As a result, some 200 student places will be transferred to "high-demand" courses.

The university said students on targeted programmes and those beginning in October would be able to finish their studies. It said every step would be taken to avoid compulsory redundancies, although a redundancy committee had been formed.

Mr Hughes said the AUT had not given up hope of saving at least some of the programmes.

He said: "These are important programmes, both locally and nationally, and many of them play a key role in encouraging student diversity at Durham.

University spokesman Keith Seacroft said:"We'd like to sustain all the subjects, but we cannot afford to do so. These courses are relatively expensive to run and there is no sustainable forecast for growth."

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