Ulster University has confirmed the closure of its school of modern languages while identifying another four subject areas for “rationalisation”.
These are computing, maths, business management and marine science.
The institution has blamed the decision on an £8.6 million cut in the grant it receives from Northern Ireland’s Department for Employment and Learning, having previously announced that it would have to axe approximately 210 jobs this year and reduce student numbers by 1,200 over three years.
Paddy Nixon, Ulster’s vice-chancellor, said that the courses identified for closure or rationalisation had been selected according to a number of factors including student demand, student satisfaction, dropout rates, employment data and research performance.
As well as closing the school of modern languages, Ulster will also stop offering courses in interior design, although existing students in both areas will be able to finish their degrees, and students due to begin courses later this month will also be unaffected.
The other four subject areas may be transferred between campuses, in a move that Professor Nixon said would result in each of the university’s four sites having “specific sectoral alignments, essentially becoming centres of expertise”.
Professor Nixon added that teaching provision would be “consolidated” across all faculties, to facilitate “the necessary reduction of staff numbers without impacting on the quality of teaching which remains paramount”.
The cuts in funding from the Northern Ireland executive will have “far reaching consequences for our young people and our local economy”, Professor Nixon added.
“We cannot absorb further cuts so now more than ever, we must be decisive,” he said. “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.”
Robin Swann, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the chair of its employment and learning committee, said that the closure of the modern languages department would be particularly damaging.
“We should be investing in modern languages which will give our students the ability to perform on the world stage, in industry, in financial markets, in international business, in a country that is dependent on exports,” Mr Swann said. “I think it is very short-sighted to remove the potential for our students to develop modern language skills.”
The cuts in the DEL budget have been blamed on reductions in funding from Westminster, which have been exacerbated by the power-sharing executive’s inability to reach a decision on implementing welfare reforms.