Danish universities are considering merging more than 20 languages with other academic disciplines to cope with cuts in state funding, prompting a public outcry.
Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, Minister of Science, Technology and Development, said small languages with few students received approximately 400,000 krone (US$75,000) a year from the government. But from the next budget this would be changed so that support would be given only to languages that are taught at only one university in Denhark.
"Since there is less demand for many of the small languages, there is a need to take measures to create a critical mass," she said.
At Copenhagen University alone more than 20 languages with few students, such as Greek, Latin, Russian, Finnish, Persian, Hebrew and Polish are under threat. Greek and Latin will merge with each other and offer both bachelor and masters degrees, and other Eastern European languages will be offered besides Russian.
At Aarhus University next year Greek and Latin will not any longer be individually taught subjects. At the Southern University of Denmark in Odense several Eastern European languages will be merged.
Discussions about the mergers have been going on since early summer, when the ministry announced that the universities budget for next year would be reduced because of the fall in gross national product.
There has been an outcry from professors, intellectuals, museum personnel and others, demanding government intervention.