University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


A manifesto for small subjects

The closure of small subjects and programmes at this university is irresponsible. Humanities academics at the University of Copenhagen release a joint statement. Full text here:

Small subjects are small, because they are exclusive. They are not designed as mass education.

Small subjects represent linguistic and cultural depositories. Small subjects are globally integrated, Danish scientific environments that have been built over a long time with strong academic traditions. Many of them are in the absolute world class. They are easy to close, but are almost impossible to rebuild; closure will constitute a loss for Denmark’s global position as a knowledge society.

Small subjects work with different and often difficult languages, but they are not pure language subjects. Some are language based area studies, some are highly philological, but they all use the language to study a society and its culture, historically or in the contemporary mode. Many focus on civilizations, regions and cultures that hold the keys to comprehend and act in relation to Denmark’s future and our welfare.

Our society needs the research, knowledge and graduates that the small subjects produce. We act on a global stage, and small subjects offer conceptions and insights about parts of the world that no other subjects can.

Small subjects must be prioritized. If society can prioritize between tax cuts, billions for the elderly and health, then the diversity and profile of the universities can also be a priority. Political priorities targeting the universities cannot only rely on budget models that treat everyone as if they were equal, if the university is to maintain its trustworthiness as a central, historically anchored and visionary knowledge institution. Not only budget models but also academic traditions must be able to guide and manage the universities.

Is one Krone (DKK) for a small subject a Krone taken from a big subject? For economists the answer would be a ’yes’. But if we insist on the idea that universities are broadly founded, encompassing knowledge institutions, then the small subjects must be considered an asset. They cost money to maintain, but they are not a loss. Simple budget models tend to mainstream universities and turn them into comparable institutions for mass production; the small subjects ensure their indispensable diversity and adds a reflexive inclusiveness that a world class university must have; the small subjects can easily exist amongst the bigger ones, and both sides benefit from it.

Small subjects must have a clear framework to operate in. On the one hand, their size must depend on the demand from society and the contemporary labor market for their knowledge as well as on the completion rate of their students. On the other hand, the needs of the future must also be considered. Irrespective of where the world is on fire and where the markets are growing the most right now, The need for the knowledge about the areas that the small subjects work with has been amply documented. We and our students are a knowledge reserve in relation to the diversity of the world.

The universities must make small subjects toe the line so that they attain their goals. Universities must place high demands on quality, but they must also recognize that quantity does not rime well with small subjects. Small subjects have to be nourished to stay alive. Do not tax their employees! They carry special funding from the national budget and from the university president’s funds with them.

Small subjects do not whine, but we ask our fellow Danes to note that an important part of our immaterial cultural heritage and our common educational and research history is on the way to the garbage dump – not as a result of deep, academic reflection, but purely on the ground of short-sighted needs for cost reductions and a lack of will to acknowledge, that small is an inherent part of the big.

Support positive discrimination against small subjects to help make Denmark stay alive, dynamic and much wiser. Small subjects help secure that Danish views on the rest of the world do not become one-dimensional. In the long run that would cost our society much more.

Copenhagen 8 February 2016

Signed by;
Associate Professor Frank Sejersen, Associate Professor Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, Associate Professor Ravinder Kaur, Associate Professor Jesper Nielsen, Associate Professor Trine Brox, Associate Professor Rasmus Elling, Professor Jørgen Delman, Postdoc Adam Hyllested, Associate Professor Krzysztof Stala, Associate Professor Joshua A. Sabih, Associate Professor Tea Sindbæk Andersen, Assistant Professor Trine Stauning Willert, Study Adjunct Pia Johansen, Associate Professor Claus Valling Pedersen, Professor Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, Associate Professor Kenneth Gregory Zysk, Study Lecturer Mads Büchert Eskildsen, Associate Professor Pia Päiviö, Professor David Bloch, Associate Professor Ildiko Beller-Hahn, Study Lecturer Gülsüm Akbas, Professor Kim Ryholt

Do you have a good story? We would like to hear from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook for features, guides and tips on upcoming events and follow us on Twitter for links to other Copenhagen academia news stories.