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Uncertain Future for Icelandic Studies in Copenhagen

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Uncertain Future for Icelandic Studies in Copenhagen

Skarðsbók

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

While there have never been more students interesting in learning Icelandic, the University of Copenhagen is considering cutting the language from their course offerings. According to RÚV, the Humanities Department at the Danish school is losing around a quarter of its budget. Program directors have responded by calling for the cancellation of classes with fewer than 30 students, including modern and old Icelandic, old Danish, Faroese, runic writing, and other subjects related to Medieval literature of the region. Were the cuts carried out, they would interrupt two centuries of research and teaching in the subjects.

“I really think neither the government nor the humanities administration at the university realized what consequences these decisions would have,” stated Gottskálk Jensson, a scholar and lecturer at the school, adding that cutting the programs could put Danes in danger of losing their ties to their Nordic heritage. “I have yet to speak to anyone who thinks this is a good idea,” he remarked.

Gottskálk says those campaigning to keep the programs running have received great support from Danish media, who recognize the importance of Nordic history to Denmark. He notes that the proposed cuts are incongruent with Icelandic education elsewhere, which is flourishing both in neighbouring countries and around the world. Some Danish universities also house original Icelandic manuscripts, making it even more surprising they would consider cutting Icelandic programs.

Icelandic Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir held a conference call with her Danish counterpart Tommy Ahlers yesterday to discuss the situation. A notice on the ministry offices website states the two ministers both expressed a desire to find a solution which would make it possible for the university to continue teaching Icelandic. Ahlers stated the matter would be taken up with the rector of the University of Copenhagen.

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