I agree with Pieta Monks' s analysis (THES, October 21) that a climate of fear and rising costs in Russia, coupled with grant-starved students in Britain, has sadly led to a decline in numbers of students studying Russian in Russia. This has had a knock-on effect on educational institutions struggling to survive and new firms just finding their feet in the new capitalism that is Russia. There are two separate but connected issues here: cost and quality; and fear and safety.
In Russia the harsh economic reality is that with so many individuals, educational institutions and private firms offering Russian language courses in a limited, and at present declining, market the ones which will survive will offer quality at affordable prices.
It is undeniable that Russia is not as safe as it was. As an organiser of Russian language courses, safety is a first priority. In my experience, however, fear is often unfounded. The genuine student is of no interest to the mafia. Sensible precautions to protect against street crime are necessary everywhere. Health risks must always be considered no matter where in the world one travels. Awareness teaches a healthy respect of city life; fear inhibits learning.
At City College Manchester we work closely with our Russian colleagues to ensure both quality of teaching and safety. We prepare students for the visit and supervise both courses and students in Russia. In this way we ensure our students benefit from the course. Many return, some to work in Russia. At the same time they inject hard currency into the Russian economy, create jobs and generally benefit the teachers, the families who accommodate them, Russian students and so on.
If governments want to assist the budding Russian economy in the interests of long-term security and stability, then it would not be misplaced to provide financial assistance for western students to study in Russia. While the talking goes on it is at this micro level that things are, and with a little help, can happen, and it is co-operation and contact at this level that has lasting results.
City College Manchester