Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  

2003:14 R

Evaluation of programmes in Baltic Languages at Stockholm University and Celtic Languages at Uppsala University

This report accounts for the results of the evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Celtic Languages at Uppsala University and Baltic Languages at Stockholm University conducted by the National Agency for Higher Education during 2002. This evaluation forms part of the audit of all major subjects in which general degrees are offered that the National Agency is conducting during the period 2001-2006. It was carried out by a panel of peer assessors from Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden consisting of subject experts, a postgraduate student and undergraduate students. The evaluation was based on the institutions´ own self-evaluations and site visits.

The evaluation took place in tandem with an evaluation of programmes in Slavic Languages and East and Central European Studies (Evaluation of programmes in Slavic Languages and East and Central European Studies, National Agency Report Series 2003:15R) and some of the expert assessors were members of both panels. A separate report has been published on Baltic and Celtic Languages as these are each only offered at the institution which has been assigned ‘national responsibility´ for the languages in question. Many of the issues raised in the evaluations are identical, and for this reason some sections of the text in the two reports are identical.

The National Agency sees no reason to question the right to award degrees at either of the institutions evaluated: the Celtic section of the English Department at Uppsala University and the Department for Baltic Studies at Stockholm University. The panel of assessors draws attention, however, to circumstances that significantly affect the subjects evaluated. The panel of assessors also makes a number of recommendations, which are summarised below.

Overarching issues

The Department for Baltic Studies and the Celtic section are the only institutions in Scandinavia where undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in these subjects are offered. The panel of assessors stresses the importance of the continuation of this broad range of programmes.

Celtic Languages and Baltic Languages are disciplines for which a national responsibility has been assigned to Stockholm University, on the one hand, and Uppsala University on the other. However, no earmarked funding is linked to this responsibility. The panel of assessors considers that the economic situation must be ameliorated for the two subjects.

The panel of assessors points out that these two subject areas are too small to constitute autonomous units. Just as the Celtic section forms part of the English Department, it is likely that the Department for Baltic Studies would be better served by incorporation in a larger unit of language departments with a shared leadership and administration. Reorganisation of this kind would probably improve conditions for the development of the subject.

The panel of assessors recommends greater cooperation for both subjects. The Department for Baltic Studies in particular is considered to require more cooperation and to make its presence more visible both within the university and elsewhere. The Department is therefore recommended to draw up plans to establish cooperation both with universities in Lithuania and appropriate departments in Sweden.

As the Celtic section appears to be having library problems, the panel of assessors recommends the English Department to take the initiative in improving communications with the university library.

Teaching resources

Teaching resources are limited for both subjects, Celtic Languages in particular. This means that the subjects are vulnerable and that in the long term the quality of the teaching may be jeopardised by the teachers´ lack of time for their own research. The panel of assessors considers that the Celtic section needs more than one teacher to cope with the teaching load and that the university should preferably appoint a Professor of Celtic Languages and Culture. It is also proposed that the Celtic section should involve its postgraduate students more in teaching on undergraduate programmes. Another proposal is that teachers from the entire English Department could cooperate on elements shared by the programmes in English and the Celtic Languages. There would be more resources available for teaching in the Department for Baltic Studies if its professor was relieved of both management and administrative responsibilities.

Undergraduate programmes

The assessors consider that international exchange for both students and teachers should increase. They propose review of routines and student counselling to ensure that students choose courses in other countries that match their level and attainment and that that they should be assured that credit for these courses will be included in their Swedish degree programmes. The possibilities of studying abroad should be improved for students of Baltic Languages in particular, for example by including one term of language study at one of the Baltic universities in their programmes and enabling these credits to be transferred.

At both of the organisations evaluated it important for the formal influence of the students to be guaranteed, even though effective informal influence already exists. The English Department is recommended to allot permanent representation on the Departmental Board to undergraduate students of Celtic languages. The panel of assessors recommends the Department for Baltic Studies to review its system for course evaluations and the feed-back of results to teachers and students.

Postgraduate programmes

The panel of assessors is of the opinion that postgraduate programmes in the two subjects need to be adapted more satisfactorily to the prevailing conditions. The assessors recommend that courses in Baltic Languages should be given content of the kind that corresponds to the interests of postgraduate students and their thesis subjects, and also that the proportion of taught courses should be reduced from 80 credit points to 60 or 40. In order to reduce the number of taught courses, the introduction of the requirement for enrolment of an undergraduate degree that comprises 20 credit points, for instance, in the language that is not the major subject is recommended. The panel of assessors also recommends a reduction of the proportion of taught courses in postgraduate programmes in Celtic Languages. Here, the panel also considers that the content of the courses should be defined more explicitly and that a better balance should be sought between linguistics and literature. For Baltic Languages the possibility of greater individualisation of postgraduate programmes could be increased by the introduction of assistant supervisors and the development of routines for supervision of this kind. The Celtic section is a good example as it provides postgraduate students with assistant supervisors drawn from the rest of the English department.