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.  

2003:15 R

Evaluation of programmes in Slavic Languages and East and Central European Studies at four Swedish universities

This report presents the results of the evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Slavic Languages and East and Central European Studies at Swedish universities 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 Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden consisting of subject experts and postgraduate and undergraduate students. The evaluation was based on the institutions´ own self-evaluations and site visits to the departments.

The evaluation took place in tandem with an evaluation of programmes in Baltic and Celtic Languages (Evaluation of programmes in Baltic Languages at Stockholm University and Celtic Languages at Uppsala University, National Agency Report Series 2003:14R) 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 for Higher Education sees no reason to question the right to award degrees at the institutions evaluated: the Department of Slavic languages at Göteborg University, the Department of East and Central European Studies at Lund University, the Department of Slavic Languages at Stockholm University and the Department of East European Studies at Uppsala 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

Economic resources are limited for the language departments included in this evaluation. The panel of assessors recommends the higher education institutions responsible to review the principles on which funding is allocated so that the departments are allotted basic funds in addition to the performance based allocations, and that performance at more advanced levels should receive greater compensation. In addition the panel of assessors proposes that the departments evaluated together with their faculties should formulate strategies for their future development and also experiment with new working methods and forms of cooperation. This is also important to strengthen the climate for research. An additional proposal is the creation of a national subject council for Slavic studies and a guarantee of funding for languages that cannot meet their own costs under the current funding system.

In the opinion of the panel of assessors, favourable conditions exist for cooperation between both the various departments of Slavic languages and also units devoted to ‘area studies´. The Department of East and Central European Studies at Lund is one good example of how subjects can coexist and cross fertilise each other in one and the same department. The panel of assessors believes that current conditions could be seen to favour the organisation of a joint programme by the two departments at Uppsala, i.e. the Department of East European Studies and the Department of Slavic Languages. It is also proposed that cooperation between the Departments of Slavic Languages in Stockholm and Uppsala should be developed.

Undergraduate programmes

The extent of the major subject in bachelor´s as well as master´s programmes in Slavic Languages is being discussed at both Göteborg and Uppsala. The recommendation of the panel of assessors is that these institutions should follow the examples of Lund and Stockholm, where these degrees require 80 credit points in the major subject for a bachelor´s degree and 100 credit points for a master´s.

The panel of assessors has noticed that the departments evaluated differ widely with respect to the quantity of text in the foreign language required for each credit point. The text requirement is one of the obstacles that prevents the completion of programmes. In order to remedy this situation, the panel of assessors therefore recommends the Slavic departments to stipulate a quantity of text that is realistic in relationship to the extent of the courses.

The production of term papers is also a stumbling block for students. For this reason, the panel of assessors considers that the departments need to review their routines for the supervision of papers and attempt to incorporate writing practice in as many areas as possible. Göteborg offers a course in writing.

The use of technological aids varies from department to department. The department in Lund in particular gives the impression that little use is made of technological aids in its teaching or to help students with their own studies. However, the panel of assessors recommends all the departments to produce an IT strategy that also includes training for the users.

The panel of assessors was able to determine that all the departments are attempting to increase internationalisation through cooperation agreements with universities in Slavic speaking countries. The panel of assessors recommends the Slavic departments to make more active endeavours to ensure that students spend some period of study in a Slavic speaking country. It is also considered that the rules applying to the transfer of credit should be made as simple as possible and should be applied generously.

The formal possibilities for students to exercise influence over their programmes are considered to be good. It is therefore disturbing that the students seem to have lukewarm interest in becoming involved in drafting and decision-making bodies in the departments. On the other hand, the panel of assessors points out that course-evaluation systems do not appear to work satisfactorily. Often it is the feed-back of results to the students that is at fault. The panel of assessors recommends the departments to reconsider what they can do to involve students in the development of programmes, both in terms of formal representation and ongoing evaluation.

The panel of assessors draw attention to the fact that one problem experienced by the departments is their students´ lack of knowledge of grammar. The enrolment requirements today do not guarantee adequate knowledge on entry. This does not, however, appear to be a specifically Swedish problem.

Postgraduate programmes

As these subjects can only provide funding for a few postgraduate students, the panel of assessors considers it important for the Slavic departments to devise posts for postgraduate students and formulate entrance requirements together with the faculty boards to facilitate the development of vital research environments. The departments should take advantage of the possibilities offered by the Nordic Academy for Advanced Study (NorFA) in arranging seminars and courses in postgraduate programmes. The panel of assessors also considers that postgraduate students should be given another supervisor in addition to their principal supervisor, for instance from another department.

In view of the prevailing circumstances for postgraduate programmes, the panel of assessors recommends that the proportion of taught courses should not exceed 40-60 credit points and that credit points should be awarded for elements other than courses. In addition, some time could be saved by ensuring that postgraduate students had already decided on their thesis subject on enrolment and by the abolition of the requirement of a second Slavic language. Those responsible for postgraduate programmes must make reasonable demands where the extent of theses is concerned.