The man known as the “father of modern linguistics” has branded a decision to axe courses at the University of Sussex as “a serious blow to intellectual life”.

Noam Chomsky spoke out after university management announced they were scrapping the linguistics courses.

Chomsky, who has more than 30 honorary degrees from universities around the world and is seen by many as the leading living public intellectual, said: “I am very sorry, naturally, to learn of the decision to cut linguistics courses.

“The field is at an exciting stage. The same is true generally of the cognitive sciences, within which linguistics has a central place.

“If the decision is implemented, it will, I think, be a serious blow to the intellectual life of the university.”

More than 300 students and lecturers staged a protest at the University of Sussex campus in Falmer, Brighton, on Friday, to fight the cost-cutting decision.

Students said they were appalled at the decision to cut courses, ranked among the best in the country, which was made by the university senate without any consultation.

Two days before the university admission's day, students who had already been accepted were told they could not study the courses they had applied for.

The university said the courses were being scrapped so it could develop research elsewhere in its English facility.

The 55 remaining linguistics students will be able to complete their courses and talks are being held with the seven employees affected.

he National Union of Students (NUS) is backing the Save Linguistics campaign and more than 1,000 people have joined the Facebook group. A petition has also already attracted 500 signatures from students and staff.

President Wes Streeting said the NUS joined staff and the students' union in calling on the University of Sussex to urgently revisit and reverse the decision.

He said: “The threat to the linguistics course in Sussex is just the latest manifestation of crude market forces threatening some of Britain's leading courses and disciplines.

“It beggars belief that a course that was ranked second in the country only last year should be threatened with closure.”

The axing of linguistics has been compared to the university's attempt to cut the chemistry department three years ago, which led to a high-profile campaign from students and staff and intense criticism from scientists across the UK.

The university last month suffered a £500,000 cut in its funding from the Higher Education Council for England.

A University of Sussex spokeswoman said: "This does not alter the position at Sussex.

“The Department of English is developing its successful research and teaching activities across the range of literature, language and drama.

“Decisions on the undergraduate courses offered by Sussex are made on this basis."