Letter by BASEES President, Prof Judith Pallot, to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell, University of Bath
8 April 2017
I am writing to you, as President of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, to express my Association's grave disquiet at the decision communicated to staff in the modern languages department on 20th March to withdraw Russian from the 2018/2019 undergraduate prospectus.
BASEES is extremely concerned about the loss of teaching posts in Russian at a time when the UK government has acknowledged that the national interest requires high levels of expertise in Russian language and Russian studies. The importance of the Russian Federation in contemporary global geopolitics has been re-emphasised over the past two years and the UK's ability to deal effectively with the Russian Federation needs continuing investment in the teaching of Russian language and Russian studies more generally at UK universities. Whilst we acknowledge that the decline in student numbers in the 2016/2017 is worrying, we strongly believe that the good reputation that Bath has for Russian language and literature teaching, the diversity of joint degree programmes its offers and its geographical location in an important hub for Russian and East European studies centred on the University of Bristol is, in fact, an excellent basis for expanding the in-take of students. The experience of other universities has shown that a well-targeted admission strategy that stresses the employment opportunities that flow from a degree in Slavonic and East European languages and society can yield very positive results. As we understand it, the replacement of the past few years has put the burden of maintain recruitment on mainly part-time and junior staff which no doubt has contributed to the drop off in recruitment.
The University of Bath has a good reputation in the national Russian and East European Studies community for producing high calibre students, some of whom proceed onto higher degrees. Ending language teaching at the undergraduate level inevitably will damage the prospect of recruiting at the post-graduate level. In short, by withdrawing Russian from the undergraduate prospectus the University is effectively withdrawing its support for higher learning in the area of Russian and East European Studies, in which it has an established and strong reputation.
The British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies believes that the action on the part of the University of Bath proposals is misguided and fails to recognise the contribution that its scholars have made to the field of Russian and East European Studies over many years. We urge you to put reconsider the decision to eliminate Russian language teaching and instead embark on discussions, in which the Association would be pleased to participate, about how to restore the numbers applying for Russian and to strengthen further the broad field of Russian studies in the University.
Professor Judith Pallot
(President of BASEES)