Eddie Izzard leads charge against course closures

Polly Curtis
Tuesday May 18, 2004

The comedian Eddie Izzard is spearheading a campaign to save two departments at the University of East Anglia from closure.

The university's languages, linguistics and translation (LLT) and drama departments are both under threat after being deemed financially unviable. Staff have been given two months to come up with a plan of action to get them back on track.

Mr Izzard, an honorary graduate of the LLT, was drafted in to help by campaigners in the department and the student union.

He said: "UEA has a reputation for pushing the boundaries. By closing the departments you are sending out a signal that says your boundaries are shrinking.

"UEA must look to the future, where language and how we deal with it will become ever more crucial in the way the world communicates."

Ned Glasier, communications officer at the student union, said: "Closing departments like drama and languages at a university of this size will have a very real affect on the whole local community.

"They want to close the departments because they are running at a deficit, but other schools, such as music, continue to survive on a subsidy. Yes, they are expensive departments, they both need a large amount of space, but they are a big attraction of the university."

He said the campaigners want to highlight the alternative financial plans the departments are proposing to keep them up and running. The plans will be published later this week.

The university released a statement saying it was continuing to recruit for both departments for the next academic year, but it was "giving consideration to the future configuration" of the two departments.

"There is, however, an ongoing and significant shortfall in the funding available for courses in LLT and drama and the university has subsidised these courses for several years. The government's decision not to fund additional student numbers for higher education means that it is not possible to resolve the funding shortfall by recruiting additional home/EU students," the statement read.

"Decisions on the future shape of study in these areas will be considered by the university's council in July 2004."

Students are planning a rally on Friday as part of their campaign against the closures. They will also deliver a petition to the university's senior managers this week. The president of the National Union of Students, Mandy Telford, and local MP Ian Gibson will address the rally.

Student union officers hope Mr Izzard will attend the rally, although he is believed to be in Cannes for the film festival this week. "He hasn't said no yet. It would be ace if he did," said Mr Glasier.

Mr Izzard is best known for his sell-out stand-up tours, including Glorious, Dressed to Kill and Definite Article, and his TV, stage and film work. Last year he was nominated for a Tony award for his part in the Broadway production of A Day in The Death of Joe Egg. But he is less well-known for his passion for languages, for which he was awarded the honorary degree by UEA last year.

Another report HERE from the BBC.