Copenhagen University will admit no students in 2016 in a raft of smaller subjects including Finnish, Polish and Eskimology – despite being the only place in the world offering a bachelor and masters degree in the language, society and culture of Greenland, where Denmark has a special responsibility.
Announcing the decision, Copenhagen University said the move was necessary because of the austerity measures imposed upon Danish universities. There will also be no new students admitted in 2016 in modern Indian studies, Indology, South East Asian studies, Tibetology, Balkan studies, Hebrew, Turkish, Indian language and culture, and ancient Greek.
The move came as Minister of Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen announced that a national languages strategy would be developed in 2016.
Following defunding from the Danish government, the faculty of humanities has halted PhD admission and several sections of Copenhagen University staff are now awaiting notifications on whether they will keep their jobs.
"For instance Balkan studies, studies in South East Asia or India are all in areas where Denmark has important interests and relations. But with the budget cuts decided by the parliament there is unfortunately not available resources to keep smaller studies alive,” the dean of the faculty of humanities, Ulf Hedtoft, stated.
“With the general budget cut of 8%, the effects of the dimensioning decision of higher education and the reduction in the research reserve, there is no possibility to offer many smaller studies."
There is an outcry in the Danish media asking if the authorities know what the implications will be, since some of the closing down of courses this year might lead to permanent closure.
Silke Seider, a former student of modern India studies, said to Copenhagen University Post: "We are facing global problems and need common solutions. It'd be crazy to shut these programmes down."
The choice to discontinue Eskimology is particularly controversial given that Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and the latter has a special responsibility for it.
"Rationality is eroding," the major Danish newspaper Politiken wrote.
"[Government policy] is not coherent. One day Copenhagen University is announcing that the university, due to austerity measures, has to stop admission to Eskimology. And the next day the special foreign ministry advisor for [Prime Minister] Lars Løkke Rasmussen is announcing that Denmark is investing heavily in the high North and securing Danish interests in the Arctic.
“The recommendation of prioritising the presence in and around Greenland is the most rational choice in the world we are living in,” Politiken argued.
Politiken said: "It is almost shameful to remind the government and Copenhagen University that Eskimology is a part of Denmark's responsibility. If Greenland's economy and business shall develop in the coming years and the massive social problems be addressed, this requires knowledge and reciprocal engagement, rooted in science. Copenhagen University and the government have to keep a cool head and let Eskimology survive.”
Professor in the New Testament, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, of Copenhagen University said that it is a catastrophe to nullify classical Greek at the institution. "A real university has to have studies in Greek language," he said. "The spoken Greek language is the foundation for all humanities. Imagine a university without classical studies: Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge? Never!"
In the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, Minister Lunde Larsen wrote on 20 January that Danish universities are to work out a common national strategy for education and research in foreign languages during 2016, and that the ministry will prioritise this task.
"Denmark is to have a national language strategy for post-secondary language education," Lunde Larsen wrote, "so that there is education and research undertaken in those languages that are in demand by [the Danish] business sector, and that are serving the foreign policy objectives of Denmark," he said.
Copenhagen University noted the minister’s message, but said that money has to follow such plans.
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