Glasgow University, a member of the elite 18-strong Russell Group of universities - which represents the country's top research institutions - is offering voluntary severance terms to its language teaching staff.
They have been told that - as a result of plans to tackle a £10m debt - the subject is being considered a "risk" area of "low priority".
The move comes just two days after Sir Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that the low take-up of languages at A-level (and subsequently degree courses) was a national disgrace. Figures out tomorrow are expected to show a further decline in entries for languages - particularly German.
A senior academic source said: "It's terrible that a member of the Russell Group should be contemplating such action as a time when there is a national debate about improving the take-up of languages."
Jan Culik, of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Glasgow University, added: "In spite of considerable student numbers and its highly successful courses, staff members are now being strongly encouraged to apply for a 'voluntary severance scheme'. This development seems to be quite paradoxical, considering the general concern about the state of modern languages teaching in the United Kingdom."
The school has a total of about 35 staff - and the university has said it wants to reduce staffing throughout the university by about 5 per cent. However, departments earmarked as being "at risk" are likely to take a bigger share of cuts.
A spokesman for Glasgow University said it was obliged to put "a sharper focus on income generation". He added: "The university cannot continue to run an operating deficit as we have for the past 10 years and rely on borrowing and disposal of assets to fund our operations."Reuse content