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Sunderland closes languages, history and politics courses

Image: University of Sunderland

Departmental closures at University of Sunderland set to affect 34 academic staff

The University of Sunderland is to drop modern languages, history and politics in favour of a “career-focused” curriculum, its vice-chancellor has announced.

The institution said 34 members of staff would be affected by its decision to close the three departments after poor take-up among students. Research activity in these three disciplines will cease too.

Undergraduate degrees in public health will also be scrapped, as the course was deemed not relevant enough for the local NHS workforce, the university said.

David Bell, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland (pictured), told students and staff that the decision to cut the courses and focus on subjects offering clear routes to employment means the university has “a clearly established rationale” to its curriculum.

“I can assure the whole university community that the withdrawal of subjects will be handled properly and with care,” said Bell in a message to students and staff. “Formal consultation with the affected staff will begin soon. Our students will be looked after in a way that is consistent with the Student Protection Plan that was agreed by the Office for Students.”

A spokesman for the university said the affected courses “will teach out over the next two to three years, meaning that undergraduate and postgraduate students in year one or above will complete their studies with us”. He added that the university would “continue to support the staff affected and will do all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies”.

Following a meeting of its board of governors earlier this month, the university said it was taking a more “career-focused and professions-facing approach”. It will focus on growing student numbers in health-related courses such as medicine and physiotherapy, and education and some subject relevant to the creative industries.

It said it had recruited more than 60 academic staff in the last two years to meet rising student demand in some subjects. However, at the start of this academic year there were just 14 new history undergraduates and 15 new politics undergraduates, and no new modern foreign languages students.

In a statement, chair of the board of governors, John Mowbray, said: “While recognising the value of the subjects the university is withdrawing from, the board of governors agreed that they do not fit with the curriculum principles of being career-focused and professions-facing. Nor are they of a size and scale to be educationally viable in the medium to long term, given the competition from other institutions, both regionally and nationally.”

According to Higher Education Statistics Agency data published last week, the total number of languages students in the UK fell below 100,000 in 2018/19 (99,365), down from 111,340 in 2014-15. Numbers studying historical and philosophical studies are also down, from 86,330 to 81,965 in the same period.