Bid for Russian 'five-year plan'

October 1, 1999

The Scottish Parliament offers hope of a coherent long-term policy for modern-language learning, a Russian expert believes.

Edinburgh University senior lecturer Mike Falchikov, who last weekend hosted 50th anniversary celebrations for Russian at Edinburgh, warned there was still a question mark over the discipline, which has shifted from an autonomous department to a sub-division of German and now to a section within the school of European languages and culture.

Russian was thriving in some institutions but withering or fighting for survival in others, Mr Falchikov said. "Language provision is haphazard. I think the Scottish Parliament is our latest hope. We need an old-fashioned five-year or even 20-year plan," he said.

There was "panic" over the lack of languages being taught in schools, which had a knock-on effect on higher education, but reversing current trends would take a decade before the necessary teachers were trained and in post.

As the Soviet Union embraced glasnost and perestroika, Edinburgh's Russian department was hit by the fall-out from a multi-

million pound university deficit. Its chair was not refilled, and it has now dwindled from a professor and seven staff to one lecturer and a foreign language assistant. Staff losses have meant a drop in graduates from 20 to ten, but more than 20 usually attend a beginners' class, said Mr Falchikov.

There is continuing student demand, with job opportunities ranging from teaching English in Russia to working with western banking and insurance companies that want to expand into eastern Europe. "People who study Russian have a kind of commitment to the place and feel they want to do something to help. I think it's got enormous potential, with an educated workforce and enormous natural resources," said Mr Falchikov.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.


Featured jobs