THE announcement by the University of Strathclyde that it will no longer offer a joint honours degree in Italian is a disturbing indication of attitudes prevailing in Scottish academia (“University says ‘arrivederci’ to joint honours degrees in Italian”, The Herald, October 9). I am glad to see that the decision is tellingly criticised by commentators as eminent and well-informed as Ronnie Convery (cavaliere and Honorary Italian Consul); Adriano de Marco of Comites, the committee for Italians living abroad; and Joseph Farrell, Strathclyde's own emeritus professor of Italian. I cannot match them for erudition, experience, or locus to discuss this matter.

I can say that, during a footloose youth, I found myself adrift, poor, and carelessly happy, in the Italy of the early 1980s, entranced by the country, and by its language. In those days, you could buy cheaply a hefty volume listing the railway timetables for the entire country. I would read that volume as I tracked around northern Italy on slow night trains, and it was like reading poetry - there is not one place-name, of a single rural halt in Italy, that is not beautiful. Later, in the mid-1980s, I studied in Edinburgh University's wonderful little power-house of an Italian Department, and acquired some systematic knowledge of Italy's history and literature.

Since then, I have dabbled restlessly in other languages, mostly Indo-European. All languages, it turns out, are beautiful, or become so as you learn to know them. But none, I feel, is quite as beautiful as Italian. That aesthetic quality continues to attract adult learners to Italian in preference to languages with far larger claims to geo-political heft. Like Farsi (Persian) – once described by an English admirer as "the Italian of the Middle East" – the language has an inherent glamour, musicality, and emotional charge

Strathclyde's downgrading of Italian is, then, regrettable in itself. It is further to be regretted as a move away from the marked European tradition in Scottish life and academia, and for its apparent carelessness of the particular links between Scotland and Italy. Do Strathclyde's officers know that young Italians light up at the mention of Hamish Henderson, the translator of Gramsci's Prison Notebooks? At a time when Scotland looks likely to be alienated still further from its European links by the chaotic progress towards a Brexit emphatically rejected by its electorate, it is disappointing to observe an institution tending to align itself with that withdrawal from Europe, rather than countervailing against it.

Of course, it may be that Gramsci and his notebooks carry little weight in a modern institution with drive, ambition, and a business school. But there are grave hazards in the generalised tendency towards the sort of isolationist monolingualism that increasingly characterises our education system from early years onwards. It is suggested, for instance, that Al Jazeera's Arabic service presents a very different face from its English and French broadcasts. How can we know the truth of that, if we don't speak Arabic? Closer to home, and in a turbulent Europe, how will we be able to interpret events in Spain, if we have no grasp of Castilian, or of Catalan, or of Basque? Or, indeed, of future events in Italy, if we have no Italian?

Lindsay McCullough,

27 Buckstone Shaw, Edinburgh.

BILL Brown (Letters, October 10) should come "up north" to Aberdeen where we have 100 vacancies for teaching staff, many for science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects. Various recent oil and gas casualties have had a go at teaching and maybe a £20,000 retainer would have helped them persevere. Clearly there are not enough young teachers, trained locally, available.

As for "many kids" not having an interest in Stem subjects I am sure that there are the usual suspects but you would be a fool not to see that computing and the like has loads of jobs – worldwide as well, which is where many more youngsters hereabouts see their future.

Paul Martin,

7 Valentine Crescent, Aberdeen.