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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 13, 2023

State and university tensions in Baltic higher education language policy

  • Kerttu Rozenvalde EMAIL logo , Birute Klaas-Lang and Nemira Mačianskienė
From the journal Open Linguistics


This article explores state and university language policy (LP) agents in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to illuminate their relationship and standpoints in higher education language management. Being interested in who stands for what and whose positions are legitimised, we study the higher education LPs of each state, language principles of universities, and public debates. We conceptualise active LP agents as people with power, people with expertise, people with influence, and people with interest, and consider them to exercise agency in five stages: policy initiation, involvement, influence, intervention, and implementation. By means of argumentation analysis we examine the nature of agents together with the standpoints they express. The findings reveal the central role of most of the nationally oriented state policymakers in university language management in all three settings. Other state policymakers, university administrators, staff, and students become active agents when they disagree with the policies. Agents in each setting share the overarching policy goal, but the main difference of opinion that arises among them is about agency: Should the state or universities implement higher education LPs? And is the state capable of achieving the common policy goal when it takes the task upon itself?

1 Introduction

As academia is undergoing major globalising changes, language ideological debates abound in Europe and above (Wilkinson and Gabriels 2021). In the Baltic states, language issues in higher education arise not only from recent globalising processes but also from the post-Soviet state and nation building efforts. Here, moving away from the imperial past and recreating alliances with the Western world as independent states have resulted in nationalising (Brubaker 2011) and globalising language policies (LPs) (Rozenvalde 2018). These have been created for the academia by the states as well as universities.

Von Humboldt (1810), who stressed the importance of university autonomy, held that the interests of the state were best served when it ensured the material existence of universities but did not prescribe how to put the financing in use. Nonetheless, he did not consider autonomy to be boundless as he proposed that the state should formulate “organizational laws that are few and simple” (para. 22) to pre-empt the institutions from threatening the freedom themselves as the universities also “take on a certain spirit and like to stifle a different one from arising” (para. 20). Since then, Humboldt’s understanding of university autonomy has shown the way to handling the relationship between states and universities, but the range of autonomy varies significantly across settings (OECD 2003).

Autonomy also applies to language. Universities in Europe are often free to decide upon their LPs, but in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the state sets rules for language use in universities (Estermann et al. 2011). As a result, university LPs tend to be intertwined with the state’s interests but not necessarily in total agreement with its policymaking (Klaas-Lang and Metslang 2020, Rozenvalde 2022). This is partly because universities function not only within states but also across borders, and they are financed also from other sources than the state’s budget. Furthermore, the state and the universities are not univocal LP agents, “the undefined they” (Spolsky 2009, 184) but include individuals who hold and express different positions and thus participate in LP processes (Liddicoat and Taylor-Leech 2021).

In this article, we focus on active LP agency at the state and university level to illuminate how LP in academia is created from the viewpoint of individual agents in the Baltic setting. We are looking for answers to the following: who stands for what, and whose positions are legitimised in higher education language management? For that, we study the current legal measures and strategic aims in higher education LPs of each state; the explicitly formulated language principles of universities; and the agency and standpoints in recent public debates on language issues in academia.

2 Agents and positions in LP

2.1 Theoretical perspectives

In a nutshell, agency has been theorised as the capacity of individuals either to bring about change or to continue some practices over time (Liddicoat and Taylor-Leech 2021). Researchers tend to agree that agents do not act in isolation from others, but their individual or communal capacity to act is contextualised in time and space (Liddicoat and Taylor-Leech 2021). In this article, we follow Spolsky’s (2004, 2009) approach to LP studies and consider the essence of LP to lie in the choice between different linguistic possibilities that people have at their disposal. As such, LP can be exercised by anyone. Nevertheless, not everyone has equal capacity to fix or modify language use for others (Zhao 2011, Johnson and Johnson 2015).

More specifically, people either take on a productive or receptive role in LP (Zhao and Baldauf 2012, 5). We conceptualise active LP agents in the terms offered by Zhao and Baldauf (2012) who have listed people with power, people with expertise, people with influence, and people with interest to have a productive agentive capacity in LP. First, people with power include national, regional, and institutional leaders whose LP influence stems from their judicial power; they have the power to make language decisions for other people. In our case, these are politicians, state officials, and university central administrators. Second, people with influence include the social elites, such as scholars and writers, who are influential in society and can affect societal language use either by means of using language in a certain way or expressing their opinion on LP issues.

Third, people with expertise are linguists who are educated to advise on language issues. Finally, people with interest are ordinary people who get involved with LP accidentally, for example, because of their occupations. In our case, these are students and university administrative staff. As the analysis below shows, a person can perform different roles at a time. This division shows that agency is not only an exercise of power, and it unfolds at multiple levels as “policy is co-constructed, negotiated and appropriated by many different players or actors at a variety of LPP levels” (Glasgow and Bouchard 2018, 11).

Furthermore, Zhao and Baldauf (2012) propose that people exercise their active LP agency in five stages (not necessarily in sequence). First, someone must initiate the LP process by recognising that there is a language problem in the status quo (the stage of initiation). Zhao and Baldauf (2012) argue that the key point in making LP happen is to align the identified language problem with political interests: “politicians must believe that the problems are in the need of attention and worth tackling” (p. 8). Then, other agents may get involved consciously (the stage of involvement) or unconsciously (the stage of influence), and some people might disagree and therefore intervene with the process (the stage of intervention). Finally, someone must implement and evaluate the LP (the stage of implementation). We use this division in our analysis below to illuminate the role of different agents in the LP processes under scrutiny.

2.2 The Baltic context

We do not solely focus on the nature of LP agency in the processes of policy creation, interpretation, and appropriation (which has often been found to be multi-layered, e.g. Zhao and Baldauf 2012) but examine the nature of agents together with the standpoints they express. We do this within the framework of the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992), further discussed in the methodology section. As we take both agents and their standpoints to be socio-culturally mediated, we now introduce the context in which our cases are situated.

Brubaker (2011) analyses the Baltic states as nationalising states with reference to the ongoing dominant processes of nationalisation in LP and above. Furthermore, sociolinguists have argued that demarcation, i.e. putting emphasis on one’s own collective national identity and the goals connected to it, such as language maintenance, might be more salient for minority groups (May 2012) and national collectives without strong social institutions such as Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians (Ehala 2018) than for speakers in majority communities with greater economic and cultural power. “Such groups are likely to be more conscious of the need for clear linguistic boundaries in relation to a surrounding dominant language and culture” (May 2012, 137) to maintain their collective identity.

Indeed, language issues are salient in policies and public debates in all the Baltic countries, and maintaining the national language is an important collective goal for communities of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian speakers (Lazdiņa and Marten 2019). These communities are relatively small in numbers: there are approximately 1 million Estonian L1-users (Statistics Estonia 2021), 1.5 million Latvian L1-users (Latvian Language Agency n.a.), and 3 million Lithuanian L1-users (Department of Statistics of LR 2021). Language maintenance efforts in these communities often run in parallel with the discourse of being threatened by dominant languages, mostly Russian, but sometimes also English (Ehala 2018, Lazdiņa and Marten 2019). Although nationalising discourses and policies enjoy high currency, these are sometimes contested, even among state policymakers (Rozenvalde 2022).

In addition to the nationalising efforts that derive from the smallness of the Baltic titular communities, LPs in the Baltic states are being driven by the consequences of the imperial past and the current processes of globalisation. The prime LP focus of post-Soviet Estonia and Latvia has been on reversing the language shift that was an outcome of the large-scale immigration project undertaken by the Soviet Union. After the Second World War, the Soviets relocated a great deal of people, mostly Russian L1-users, from other parts of the empire to the territories of Estonia and Latvia (Hogan-Brun et al. 2009). As a result, the populations underwent significant socio-demographic and sociolinguistic change. Today, Russian L1-users form approximately a third of the populations of Estonia and Latvia (Latvian Language Agency 2019, Statistics Estonia 2021). After the restoration of independence, Estonia and Latvia have focused on raising and securing the status of the national language and teaching it to minorities (Hogan-Brun et al. 2009). Lithuania has the most homogeneous population among the Baltic states with approximately 85% of inhabitants considering themselves Lithuanians (Department of Statistics of LR 2021). However, it still follows protectionist national language and culture policies that have encountered challenges of internationalisation and societal multilingualism (Bulajeva and Hogan-Brun 2014).

What is particular about the Baltic countries is the relationship between the national language and Russian. Here, Russian is not only a language of an immigrant community, but also a former colonial language and the language of the world power. Skutnabb-Kangas (1992) has called Russian a majoritised minority language to draw attention to the uncommon power relations between the Baltic titular nations and the Russian-using minorities. The latter form a territorial continuum that extends outside Russia and into Estonia and Latvia. Although divided by state borders, part of the Russian-users in Estonia and Latvia live in the information space of Russia (Vihalemm et al. 2019). Consequently, the border does not cut them off from Russia in this sense. In the scholarly discourse, nation-states have heavily been criticised as oppressors of multilingualism and minority speakers as the elites are claimed to be interested in maintaining their dominant position and thus upholding unequal power relations (e.g. Shohamy 2006, May 2012). This discourse only considers the unequal majority–minority power relations within the nation-state but does not pay attention to the status of the speakers in the territories adjacent to the state.

Second, the impact of globalisation and the accompanying Englishization on LP is particularly visible in university language management (Bulajeva and Hogan-Brun 2014, Soler and Vihman 2018, Rozenvalde 2022). Higher education institutions in the Baltic states have been strengthening ties with universities abroad and welcoming foreign staff and students. Rapid decreases in the number of local students have accelerated these processes (Kibbermann 2017) that have, as a result, created tensions in terms of language use (Soler and Rozenvalde 2021). So far, research has not been particularly concerned with agency in higher education language management in the Baltic setting, but we bring it to focus as previous studies have hinted that the state is an important player in university language management, and this has created tensions (Rozenvalde 2022; see also below).

The scope of the state LPs differs across the Baltic states, and so does the range of policy recipients. In Estonia and Lithuania, the state LP is aimed at publicly funded higher education institutions, whereas in Latvia, the state has recently tried to extend its LP over private higher education institutions as well (Rozenvalde 2022; see below). As a result, (public) universities in the Baltic states mostly function in the official languages of the states – Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian. Among other languages used in universities, English and Russian are the most common. The use of English has increased considerably during the past few years, whereas the use of Russian has been marginalised (Rozenvalde 2018). As Lithuania only hosts a small Russian L1-using minority, Russian is commonly not used in higher education. Although the percentage of Russian L1-users is not considerably larger in Latvia than it is in Estonia, the Russian-using minority in Latvia is demographically more spread across the country than the Russian-using minority in Estonia (Latvian Language Agency 2019). In Estonia, the Russian-using community is more isolated, and Estonian and Russian L1-users live more segregated lives (Ehala and Koreinik 2021). One of the results of these differences is that the use of Russian in academia is a central LP problem for state policymakers in Latvia (Rozenvalde 2022), whereas in the Estonian policy discourse it is rarely problematised (Klaas-Lang and Metslang 2020).

In addition to the policies adopted by the states, some universities have also formulated their own language principles (Soler-Carbonell et al. 2017, Klaas-Lang 2021). In this article, we explore state- and university-authored LPs and their representatives’ standpoints in public debates to understand the multi-layered agency, the plurality, and the legitimisation of positions in higher education language management in the Baltic settings.

3 Data and methods

In order to study who stands for what, and whose positions are legitimised, we have collected 1) the most recent legal measures and strategic aims in higher education LP issued by each state (a law and a strategic development plan on higher education LP), 2) the explicitly formulated LPs of universities (the University of Latvia [UL]; the University of Tartu [UT], Estonia; and Vytautas Magnus University [VMU], Lithuania), and 3) written materials on a recent public debate on a language issue in academia.

Section 4 opens with the case of Latvia, in which the tension between the agents of the state and the universities is visible already in the place of debate, i.e., the Latvian Constitutional Court. The debate on the medium of instruction in private universities was held in 2018–2021. Then comes the case of Estonia, in which the language debates in higher education are rather like those held in Latvia (also about language of instruction) but held in the mass media. We have collected material on the financing of the Estonian-medium studies at public universities from 2020 to 2021. Finally, the case of Lithuania differs by its focus on the top-down standardisation efforts of the Lithuanian language. Nevertheless, the data on the media discussion of 2021 and 2022 highlight the positions of state and university agents. The explicit list of materials analysed in the article is given in Table 1. Altogether, we analyse 11 texts from Latvia and Lithuania, and 12 from Estonia. The material was retrieved from the web in December 2021. The data sets do not provide a total overview of the policies of the states and universities but show who engages actively in LP in academia, what they stand for, and whose standpoints are legitimised in policy texts.

Table 1


Data Agents Year, date Links to data (inEstonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian)
LV1. Law on Higher Education Institutions Passed in the Parliament, approved by the President 1995
LV2. Official Language Policy Guidelines 2021–2027 Drafted in the Ministry of Education, approved by the Government 2021
LV3. Language Policy of the University of Latvia Approved by the University Senate 2010
LV4. Press release Published by the Ministry of Education May 23, 2018
LV5. Decision about opening the case Constitutional Court Jul 18, 2019
LV6. Transcripts of the court sessions (4) Constitutional Court, representatives of the Parliament’s parties in dispute, representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Higher Education Council, the University of Latvia, a private university, the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions Apr 23, until May 12, 2020
LV7. Court decision Constitutional Court Jun 11, 2020
LV8. Decision about opening the case Constitutional Court Dec 29, 2021
EE1. Higher Education Act Passed in the Parliament, approved by the President 2019
EE2. Estonian Language Development Plan 2021–2035 Drafted in the Ministry of Education, approved by the Government 2021
EE3. Language and internationalisation principles of the University of Tartu Approved by the University Senate 2020
EE4. Interview in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Public university rector May 20, 2020
EE5. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Academic staff at a public university Jun 18, 2020
EE6. Opinion piece in the daily Postimees Linguist Jun 19, 2021
EE7. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Public university rector Nov 22, 2021
EE8. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Public university rector Dec 9, 2021
EE9. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting MP, academic staff at a public university Dec 9, 2021
EE10. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Public university rector Dec 9, 2021
EE11. Opinion piece in the daily Postimees Academic staff at a public university Dec 9, 2021
EE12. Opinion piece in the Estonian Public Broadcasting Student at a public university Dec 21, 2021
LT1. Law on Higher Education and Research Passed the Parliament, approved by the President 2009
LT2a. State Language Policy Guidelines 2018–2022 Passed by the Parliament, approved by the Government 2018
LT2b. Implementation plan of the Guidelines
LT3. Language Policy Guidelines of Vytautas Magnus University Drafted by university staff, approved by VMU Rector 2014, updated in 2018
LT4. Opinion piece 15 min. Interview with linguists and sociolinguists Nov 4, 2017
LT5. Opinion piece in Delfi web portal from the news agency ELTA MPs, the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language Sep 27, 2021
LT6. Draft of the Constitutional Law on the State Language MP, author of the Draft of Constitutional Law on State Language Sep 27, 2021
LT7. The Programme of State Language use, standardisation and dissemination Drafted and approved by the State Lithuanian Language Commission March 25, 2021
LT8. Opinion piece in (Lithuanian National Radio and Television) Interview with linguists and sociolinguists Nov 16, 2021
LT9. Opinion Ring in the Delfi web portal MP Nov 3, 2021
LT10. news, BNS news agency Chair of the State Lithuanian Language Commission Feb 1, 2019
LT11. Opinion Ring in the Delfi web portal Public university rector Nov 9, 2021

In this article, the who includes state and university representatives at any level; we exclude indirect representatives, such as civil society organisations and teachers. Moreover, we follow Darquennes et al. (2020) in their classification of agents and consider macro-level agents to be university external actors, meso-level agents to be university central administrators, and micro-level agents to be other university actors, such as staff and students. To align this with the division by Zhao and Baldauf (2012), the macro- and meso-level agents hold power. Additionally, the meso-level agents are the recipients of the macro-level agents’ policies. Finally, the micro-level agents, also policy recipients, turn into people with expertise, influence, or interest when they become active in LP debates. Furthermore, these categories are porous. Our data show that one and the same person can take on different roles. In such cases, we identify the position from which they speak in a particular context and, if possible, draw parallels between their standpoints as an agent in this specific role and as an agent also active in other roles.

We study policy texts and public debates. On the one hand, the written policy texts represent the seemingly unitary, univocal (Liddicoat and Taylor-Leech 2021), and frozen ideology (Hult 2015), in which it is nearly impossible to identify who has contributed to the policy formation. These are frozen products of past interactions (Blommaert 2005, 185) and as such they seem “unitary and authoritative without reference to other possibilities, as if what is proposed is the only possible version and the final word to be said on the topic” (Liddicoat and Taylor-Leech 2021, 5). Hult (2015) notes that the policymaking process that leads to a specific policy text might be impossible to trace directly but can be followed through connections “to the actions of stakeholders on other scales who interpret and implement the policies” (p. 223). For this reason, we analyse an LP debate in each setting that gives insights into the dialogic discourse among productive agents that leads to the legitimisation of certain ideologies in policy texts. This gives an understanding of the role of the agents who are actively involved in the LP process, and the plurality of positions they hold.

Being interested in active agency, we view LP and its making as an argumentative discourse in which various agents use argumentation to defend their standpoints at issue against doubt and/or criticism (van Eemeren and Henkemans 2017). van Eemeren and Henkemans (2017) offer methodological instruments to identify what is being argued about in ordinary discourses, both institutional and informal. We adopt the model of argumentation analysis partially, with a focus on analysing argumentation, not evaluating its reasonability or effectiveness. First, we use their model to identify the main difference of opinion in each policy discourse. Second, we determine the explicit and implicit standpoints expressed by their protagonists and the arguments they use. Third, we uncover argumentation structures and argument schemes to determine the main lines of argumentation used by the agents. Such an analysis enables us to look at the material as a whole and compare the differences of opinion, standpoints, and arguments put forward by agents in three settings.

4 Analysis

4.1 Latvia

In Latvia, the main macro-level piece of legislation in higher education language management is the Law on Higher Education Institutions (1995, LV1[1]). With this law, the state aims to ensure the use of Latvian in academia, to allow the (limited) use of the other official languages of the EU, and to exclude other languages, such as Russian, from teaching in academia, except for language and culture studies. Specifically, the state requires all universities, regardless of the source of financing (public and private), to use Latvian for specific purposes – medium of instruction, final theses, and communication with the state and society. Limiting the use of other languages for teaching but enabling the (limited) use of the official languages of the EU shows that the state seeks specific international alliance through this policy. Moreover, the state requires academic staff to publish their research in internationally acknowledged journals. This is a policy that covertly pushes the use of English, repeatedly showing that the state wants to align the academia with the Western world.

Similarly univocal is the strategic document Official Language Policy Guidelines 2021–2027 (LV2) that has been drafted and approved by institutions of macro-level agents. In this document, they repeat and elaborate on the policy outlined in the law. The state’s stance for securing the position of Latvian in academia is supported by the argument that “the citizens of Latvia have the right to acquire qualitative higher education in the state language” (p. 7). At the same time, the state stands for the academia being internationally engaged, while the international engagement is openly construed as reachable via English. This is coupled with the acknowledgement that the spread of English in academia can be problematic for the maintenance of Latvian: “the rapid spread of English in a great deal of public spheres in the world and in Latvia, the conviction of the society and individuals that English is necessary (particularly in spheres such as ... science and higher education) ... affects the communication habits of the youth and makes using and acquiring Latvian less attractive” (p. 8).

Furthermore, the macro-level agents, who have drafted and approved of this strategic document, define that the Latvian skills of the minority language users are insufficient. Therefore, they stand for continuing with the legislative reforms aimed at introducing Latvian-dominated education at all levels by limiting Russian-medium instruction. Again, this is supported by the argument of equality, which is to be attained by means of one language: “graduates of all educational institutions must have equal opportunities to continue their studies and find employment” (p. 18). In addition to explaining and furthering the state LP in universities, the document includes references to the largest state-funded universities who are construed as partners in implementing the state LP.

One of these universities, the UL, is the only one that has explicitly formulated its LP. The UL deems itself the national university and the successor of the oldest higher education institution in Latvia. As above, it is unknown who have participated in the drafting process of the Language Policy of the UL (LV3), but it has been approved by meso-level agents. According to this document, the UL has produced it to accomplish the university’s objectives that in LP are “to give priority to the advancement of the skills of Latvian as the state language and English as the internationally recognised language of scientific communication of its staff and students” because it aims to “promote a multicultural environment for studies, research and work at the UL that would guarantee the university and its graduates better collaborative opportunities elsewhere in the world” (p. 1). By defining itself as the university situated in the EU and in Latvia, the UL enforces the state policy.

Other meso-level agents have not engaged in LP explicitly by drafting the language principles, but they have actively intervened when the state policy has limited their institutional LP choices. In a similar vein, disagreements among macro-level agents have become public when new legislative means have been suggested to increase the state’s presence in the language policymaking of universities. As shown below, these agents intervene with the top-down policymaking when they become recipients of the policy and/or when they disagree with the problematising.

One of the widest recent debates on LP in academia was sparked off when the Ministry of Education (macro-level agent(s) with power) published a press release in May 2018 (LV4), in which it announced that the state is going to prohibit Russian-medium studies in private universities to promote Latvian. Then, the Minister of Education proposed amendments to the Law discussed above, and in June 2018 the parliament’s majority accepted the amendments without public parliamentary debates. Approximately one-fifth of the members of Parliament (MPs) voted against the proposal. These were from the political party that seeks to represent the Russian-speaking community. At this point, it became explicit that there were both protagonists and antagonists of this policy among the macro-level agents. Their debate became public when these MPs took the issue to the Constitutional Court (LV5), which has since then become the main venue for public debate, in which macro-, meso-, and micro-level agents have been invited to present their standpoints.

The main difference of opinion in this debate is about the agency in university language management (LV6). On the one hand, there are agents who maintain that the state must implement such a policy. They include several macro-level agents as well as a meso-level agent who the court has invited to participate as a central administrator of a public university with expertise in LP but who has previously held legislative power and been involved in the state’s LP for years. These agents defend their standpoint as follows: first, they argue that Latvian is threatened and needs the state’s help. Second, they claim that university autonomy should be subject to the state’s constitutional values. Third, they suggest that such a policy will improve the Latvian skills of those minority language users who lack sufficient language skills. Fourth, they support their standpoint with the continuation of the long-term reform that aims at establishing Latvian-dominated education system. Finally, this party considers the state’s intervention appropriate because it limits the use of Russian that, to their minds, is a hindrance to societal integration but instead enables universities to use English for teaching, which is linked with high-quality education in their argumentation.

The standpoint that these agents defend and the argumentation that they put forth mirror the position put down in the legislative and strategic documents of the state that were discussed above as the seemingly univocal state policy. Yet, the analysis shows that such a policy is not universally accepted neither at the state level, nor at the university level. In the debate, the antagonists of the state’s active agency in choosing media of instruction for private universities include several macro-level agents as well as meso-level agents; the latter are the recipients of this policy.

They argue for the need to abolish the policy; first, because, to their mind, it restricts university autonomy. Second, they refer to the state’s inability to develop coherent and flexible LPs in universities. At times, they are puzzled about interpreting some of the state’s policies, for example, whether the citizens of Latvia can study in English-medium programmes in local universities, why one piece of legislation stipulates that the language of instruction has to be Latvian, but another gives special rights to some universities to function entirely in English, and why internationalisation has to happen via English, while there are sufficient resources to engage in international processes also via Russian. None of these agents disagrees with the importance of developing Latvian and securing that the residents of Latvia acquire and use it, but all of them diverge from the view that Latvian is threatened by Russian. In Ruiz’s (1984) terms, they construct Russian as a right and a resource, not as a problem. They do not directly address the Russian-as-problem discourse but advocate Russian-as-right and Russian-as-resource points of view.

Although various parties have presented their standpoints and arguments in the court, the difference of opinion about the agency in university language management has not been solved. The court, another macro-level institution with legislative power, decided in June 2020 that the amendments on restricting the media of instruction in private universities are unconstitutional (LV7). Nonetheless, in April 2021, macro-level agents (Ministry of Education, the Parliament’s majority) passed similar amendments, once again forbidding the use of Russian as a medium of instruction in private universities. All this was done quickly and without parliamentary discussions. As a result, one fifth of the parliament that had disapproved of this policy before, took the issue, once again, to the Constitutional Court in December 2021 (LV8), in which the debate will be continued.

To conclude, the macro-level agents who are in majority at the state level are the most powerful agents to initiate LPs in academia as they have legislative power. These agents stand for the strict state policies that mainly support the use of Latvian and English and are against the use of Russian in academia. Certain likely-minded macro-level agents have disproportionate power in higher education language management and the voices of the opponents, both meso- and macro-level agents in this case, are not considered. Here, the meso-level and other macro-level agents do not actively engage in policy initiation but intervene in the policymaking process. It means that they might be powerless to change LP in the initiation stage, but they participate in the LP process by intervening with the process and delaying its implementation.

4.2 Estonia

In comparison to Latvia, the macro-level agents in Estonia use the means of legislation less to shape university LP but are nevertheless important players in higher education language management. In 2019, the Estonian parliament passed the new Higher Education Act (EE1), which is the main macro-level piece of legislation in the field. In this act, the state ensures that the language of instruction in universities is Estonian but allows the use of any other language for instruction as well. Specifically, the state stands for using Estonian as the language of instruction by waiving tuition for all students enrolled in Estonian-medium programmes and requiring universities to provide intensive Estonian language courses for students who are interested in studying in Estonian but whose language skills are insufficient. The state enables universities to offer study programmes in any other language if they consider it important for ensuring high-quality education.

The most important strategic document is the Estonian Language Development Plan 2021–2035 (EE2) that has been drafted and approved by macro-level agents. In this document, these agents stand for the need to centrally strengthen the status and the reputation of the Estonian language, thus highlighting the role of the state in LP. According to this document, such a need follows partly from “the global decline in language diversity” (p. 4) that affects the use of Estonian in some spheres, for example, higher education, which has been undergoing Englishization (p. 5). Building on the discourse of threat, the state takes on a task to ensure the vitality of Estonian and its use as the primary language in every sphere of life. In the field of higher education, the state aims to achieve this goal in cooperation with public universities. Private universities that are few and far between remain outside the scope of state policies and are independent in their language choices.

The state policymakers stand for the cooperation between the state and the public universities, first, by encouraging the universities to draft the language and internationalisation principles together with the state (again emphasising the importance of state agency in LP) that would “ensure the use of Estonian as language of higher education and research, strike a balance between Estonian- and English-medium studies, and help the universities to achieve internationally approved quality” (p. 9). Second, the state agents emphasise that the universities must teach incoming foreign students Estonian, and third, the public universities must guarantee that their language of administration is Estonian.

So far, the UT has been the only one to draft institutional language principles. The Language and Internationalisation Principles of the UT (EE3) were approved by meso-level agents in 2020. The UT is closely connected to the state as the latter has given it a special status – it is the only national university in Estonia by the state’s law. In the Estonian version of these principles, the university defines itself as “the international national university” (para. 1), and as such, it undertakes the task set by the state to “preserve and develop the Estonian language, Estonian-medium education, culture and heritage” (para. 2), but it is also acknowledged in the Principles that the UT shall be an “international community whose teaching, research and development activities are at an internationally excellent level” (para. 3). The principles that apply to preserving and developing Estonian are in harmony with the state’s approach and either repeat it or follow it up. Along the same lines as in the case of the UL, the UT does not construe English as a threat.

Although the analysis of the current legislative and strategic documents drafted by the state agents in Estonia indicates that their primary focus is on supporting the use and teaching of Estonian, and the meso-level agents have mainly agreed to this, the analysis of the public debates shows that macro- and meso-level agents do not always function in harmony. Such debates on language issues in academia have abounded particularly in the media in which a great deal of op-eds and interviews have addressed the topic. For the analysis, we have collected some of the most recent opinion-pieces and longer interviews that cover the financing of Estonian-medium studies.

As in the case of Latvia, the main difference of opinion in this debate is about the agency in university language management. The debate was opened in May 2020 when a meso-level agent (re)started a discussion in the media on the financing of the Estonian-medium studies in public universities (EE4) and publicly recognised a problem in higher education language management. In 2013, the state had reformed the higher education system by waiving tuition for students enrolled in Estonian-medium studies, and now a university rector brought it to public attention that the state had not upheld the promise to allocate sufficient funds for supporting the policy implementation, and the Estonian-medium teaching in academia is threatened. Thus, the main difference of opinion is about acknowledging or neglecting the problem with financing a top-down LP. Throughout the debate, the antagonists of the standpoint remain imagined and are not specified as they are not explicitly present in the discussion.

After the first interview on the topic, other meso- and micro-level agents got involved by joining the public debate and becoming the protagonists of the standpoint that there is a problem with the state requiring universities to teach Estonian-medium programmes for free but not allocating sufficient funding. The protagonists of the standpoint include, first, people with power, i.e. meso-level agents (EE7, EE8, EE10) and a macro-level agent who is simultaneously a professor (EE9); second, people with influence as university professors from various fields announce themselves the protagonists of the standpoint (EE5; EE11); a person with expertise (a linguist; EE6), and a person with interest (a student; EE12). They intervene with the state’s policymaking and try to initiate a different LP: the state should, to their minds, either find funds for implementing the current policy or change the system so that universities could find other sources for financing Estonian-medium studies.

They all use mainly one line of argumentation to support their standpoint, namely, the Estonian-medium higher education is in threat due to the state’s inability to implement its policy, and it is important to preserve Estonian-medium instruction because, first, the maintenance, cohesiveness, and development of society and democracy depend on it. In other words, they use the state’s main LP goal, nationalisation, to support their standpoint. So far, an LP process has been initiated and it has attracted involvement of various policy actors, but these agents have not succeeded in the most important, i.e. aligning the problem with political interest and making the majority of the macro-level agents believe that it is a problem worth tackling.

4.3 Lithuania

As in Estonia and Latvia, the state of Lithuania has adopted its Law on Higher Education and Research (2009, LT1), in which it defines that the medium of instruction in state-funded universities is Lithuanian and sets rules for the right of universities to implement studies in other languages. Programmes can be offered in other languages, which macro-level agents do not define, when these are linked with internationalisation aims (student and staff mobility) as well as for language and culture studies.

The macro-level agents elaborate on their LP in the strategic document The State Language Policy Guidelines for 2018–2022 (LT2a), which has been drafted collaboratively by macro-level agents who hold not only power but also expertise, and micro-level agents, specifically people with expertise in LP, mostly linguists working at universities. The document has been approved by the Parliament. The central focus of these agents is on the preservation and development of Lithuanian that they see to be the task of the top macro-level agents but who, to the minds of the authors, have so far performed the task inadequately. First, they call for making the state LP more coherent when it comes to the quality of Lithuanian, its standardisation and control of its correctness. Second, they ask the macro-level agents to agree upon setting clear boundaries for the use of Lithuanian and English. The main line of argumentation behind this standpoint is the importance of keeping languages apart. For instance, these agents problematise the changes in the use of Lithuanian for science and higher education and construe the spread of English as a threat.

Here, a difference of opinion about agency appears among LP actors. These agents, partly from the universities and partly representing the state, argue for the macro-level agents to take a leading role in LP. They identify the inadequacy of the current state LP as a problem. Although the document initiates change in the state LP, just as in Estonia, the main task of these agents is to convince the politicians’ majority in the importance of the language problem(s) they have highlighted. At the same time, the Guidelines and its implementation plan are highly prescriptive for universities as the authors of these documents construe universities as responsible agents for implementing almost half of the measures initiated by this macro-level policy (LT2b).

The only university to have developed its own official LP is VMU[2] that was re-established in Kaunas in 1989 by the joint efforts of Lithuanian and diaspora scholars. The drafting of the VMU Language Policy Guidelines (2014, amended in 2018; LT3) was initiated and carried out by micro-level agents who felt a need to have a strategic document embracing all issues regarding language instruction, teaching and learning, and the use of language in academia (Mačianskiene, 2011). VMU, which promotes the artes liberales principles-based study model, construes its role as a university that develops multilingualism, and the Guidelines emphasise that those who re-established VMU “clearly understood the significance of Lithuanian and foreign languages for people in the perspective of their studies, life, and activities. Based on this idea, a special attention has been paid to the teaching of foreign languages [...]” (p. 7). The authors of the VMU Guidelines use two main lines of argumentation to explain their support for multilingualism and the teaching of foreign languages. First, they argue that humanitarian values must be supported in technocratic society, and, second, they construe such a policy as their “response to the accelerating processes of globalization” (p. 7).

Furthermore, the authors stress the coherence of the VMU Guidelines with LP documents of the Lithuanian state and the European institutions. For instance, they particularly stress that “the correct use of Lithuanian language is one of the cherished values of VMU community” (p. 7). As in the case of the university policies discussed above, VMU does not construe English as a threat but a language necessary for university functioning. Furthermore, the VMU Guidelines refer to the European level, not the state level, when arguing for its policy on multilingualism: “The variety of languages is one of the challenges for European integration and dialogue among cultures” (p. 8, original translation), and “the teaching/learning of modern European languages is organized according to the system, defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages” (p. 9). The Guidelines were approved by meso-level agents and currently an amendment is being drafted. It will be discussed and approved in the University Senate in 2023.

By contrast to Estonia and Latvia, topics directly related to higher education language management (such as issues of language of instruction) have not deserved much public attention in Lithuania. What arises from time to time and is related to language use in universities is the debate on the role of the state in LP and the scope of state policies (LT4, LT8, and LT9). Recently, some macro-level agents with power and expertise (people working for the State Lithuanian Language Commission under the auspices of the Parliament) drafted and other macro-level agents with legislative power (MPs from the party Union of the Motherland – Lithuanian Christians-Democrats) proposed amendments to the Constitutional Law on the State Language (LT5). In the amendments of 27 September 2021 (LT6), these macro-level agents proposed to change the law so that the state could regulate the use of Lithuanian in public life even more. A similar draft was registered in the parliament in 2013 but failed to be approved. Now, the proponents of giving the state (or themselves) more power over language use control seek to “regulate the use of state language in public life of the Lithuanian Republic, its management, supervision and control” (art. 1). The drafted law obliges the State Language Commission to set directions for language management, standardisation, and codification, and makes its decisions binding upon all juridical and physical bodies in the LR (art. 17.3). The supervision and monitoring are planned to be performed by the State Language Inspectorate. They support their standpoint with the discourse of threat, as the needs to defend the Lithuanian language from disappearance. The top-down standardisation and control are considered to be the only measures of language and national identity maintenance, preservation, and protection from any influence, especially from the threat of the English language (LT7).

The opponents to this macro-level initiative include people with influence and expertise – (socio)linguists, philosophers, and other micro-level representatives of academia (LT8). In case the amendments are approved in the parliament, they would be the recipients of this policy. These agents are against the policy of increasing control over language use as they see the draft as a means of state-supported language-use control institutions to constitutionally enshrine the necessity of their functions and the existence. They construe this law as an obligation imposed on citizens to use the prescribed norms and as the continuation of the measures used in the Soviet times (to control and punish). The opponents propose to foster natural use and development of the language, accepting its diversity rather than prescriptive use of set norms and control by certain concerned institutions (LT8).

The debate described above is a follow up of the ongoing discussions reflecting the changes in the state language ideology – standardisation and control issue vs natural development of the Lithuanian language. In Lithuania, various macro-level institutions have been established to strictly perform the functions of supervision, relying on the methods of inspection and criticism, insisting on one right version of “correct” language, believing that there is one right version and that borrowing leads to language death; even punishment was issued by the Language Inspectorate for incorrect use of the language in media, books, and public notices. However, the actions on the micro- and meso-level, particularly the initiatives of people with influence and people with expertise have brought the ideas of a more liberal ideology to the rather stagnant policy of the state LP supervisors. According to them, the threat to the state language is artificially constructed (Vaicekauskienė and Šepetys 2016, Vaicekauskienė 2017) by the state language controlling institutions in fear of the diminishing importance of their power and increased refusal to accept autocratic decisions by the society.

The debate is still going on, but its fruits can already be seen in the softened discourse from the strict supervision and punishment for language mistake-driven policy towards a more liberal, recommendation- and consultation-based state language ideology at a macro level. For example, in 2014 the State Language Commission announced the List of Major Language Mistakes (approved in 1997 to stop the inclusion of borrowings and suggest newly created terminology) as invalid. The list still exists but the Language Inspectorate no longer issues penalties for making language mistakes.

All in all, there is no straightforward opposition between the power agents at the macro level and academia representatives at the micro level about many, including language-wise, issues. The relationship between the state and university is based on “pragmatic distance rather than on natural cooperation,” as stated recently by the rector of Vilnius University (LT11).

5 Discussion and conclusions

By means of exploring agency at the state and university levels we have highlighted the central role of the state in higher education language management in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Our analysis indicates that the states set the agenda for university language management and construe (publicly funded) universities as partners in implementing the state LP initiatives. These are mainly nationalising in their content. Furthermore, tracing individual agency in current LP debates has enabled us to show that the states in the Baltics are far from conducting their LP in academia univocally, and the final written policy texts mainly legitimise the standpoints of the majority of the likely-minded and nationally oriented macro-level agents with legislative power. Such language ideological struggles could be particularly visible in higher education in the Baltic countries as the states construe universities as autonomous in their legislations, but it has not been clearly agreed upon what that autonomy means, whether it is boundless or limited to certain actions.

To claim that some macro agents are central in university language management does not mean that other state policymakers, university central administrators (meso agents), and university staff and students (micro agents) would be powerless to influence LP processes. Our analysis indicates that those working for or studying at universities, i.e. the direct recipients of the state LP, as well as opposing state policymakers, become active LP agents when they disagree with the state policies. In the materials analysed, differences of opinion become public (and therefore traceable) when a) some macro-level agents attempt to broaden the scope of state LPs, as in the cases of Latvia and Lithuania, or b) when agents support the state LP but disagree with the process of its implementation, such as in Estonia and Latvia. Regardless of the LP layer, whether it is status planning (as in Estonia and Latvia), or corpus planning (as in Lithuania), the dialogic relationship between agents at different levels is at play in the policymaking process.

Although there is nothing new about the states taking on such an active role in higher education language management in the Baltic setting, the relationship between the state and universities is still troubled to an extent. In all the debates discussed, agency is problematised. In the cases of Latvia and Lithuania, some macro-level agents are perceived by others as wanting to give themselves too much control over university LPs. In the cases of Latvia and Estonia, some agents highlight that the dominant state policymakers have created or are creating LPs for universities that the states are unable to fully implement.

As these policies curb the freedom of universities, the latter are unable to work towards the common policy goal by other means. In all three settings, the policy goal is shared by agents under scrutiny. In Latvia, all agents agree upon the importance of protecting and supporting the use of Latvian in academia. In Estonia, all agents are in favour of maintaining and developing Estonian-medium programmes in the universities, and in Lithuania, all agents consider the quality of the Lithuanian language important. In all cases, the agents disagree about what measures should be used and who should take on a leading role for achieving the goal. When the meso-level agents are interested in initiating policy changes to continue pursuing the common goal, such as in the case of Estonia, their main task is to align their policy initiation with the interests of legislators and they have to convince the majority of macro-level agents in the importance of their policy initiative, like suggested by Zhao and Baldauf (2012).

One of the common goals in the LPs of the states and universities across the Baltic countries is to seek a particular international alliance with the Western world through these policies. However, what differs in the LPs advocated by the dominating macro-level agents, and the meso-level agents, is how they construe English. In the written state policies, all three states approve of using English in academia but also construe it as a threat to the national languages. By contrast, the meso-level policies do not discuss English from this aspect. The analysis shows that the dominant state policymakers in all three settings employ the discourse of threat to explain their agency in university LPs. As English is making inroads in academia, depicting it as a threat enables the states to construe themselves as the source of solution. The portrayal of the national language as weak and unhealthy, and thus needing the state action has been found to characterise the nationalising discourses, policies, and practices in all the post-Soviet states (Brubaker 2011). Additionally, Ehala (2018) stresses that it is important for state politicians to uphold the discourse of being threatened for the sake of preserving collective identity for national groups without strong socio-economic institutions.





language policy






member of Parliament


University of Latvia


University of Tartu


Vytautas Magnus University


We are grateful to Gunta Kļava for editing the summary in Latvian.

  1. Funding information: This work was supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the programme Mobilitas Pluss (grant number MOBJD646).

  2. Conflict of interest: The authors state no conflict of interest.

  3. Data availability statement: All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files.

Summary in Estonian Pinged riigi ja ülikoolide vahel Balti riikide kõrghariduse keelepoliitikas

Uurime artiklis riigi ja ülikoolide aktiivset agentsust kõrghariduse keelepoliitika kujundamisel Eestis, Lätis ja Leedus. Otsime vastust küsimustele: 1) Kes osalevad aktiivselt kõrghariduse keelepoliitika kujundamisel? 2) Missugused on nende seisukohad? 3) Kelle seisukohad on tunnistatud õiguslikuks keelepoliitika dokumentides?

Aktiivse agentsuse uurimisel kasutame Zhao ja Baldaufi (2012) pakutud teoreetilist raamistikku toimijate eristamiseks ja nende tegevuse seletamiseks. Jagame seega toimijad neljaks: esiteks need, kellel on õiguslik võim keelepoliitilisi otsuseid teha (riiki esindavad poliitikud, ametnikud ja ülikoolide juhid); teiseks võivad keelepoliitikat mõjutada need, kes on ühiskonnas mõjukad (teadlased ja professorid); kolmandaks need, kes võivad keelepoliitikat mõjutada, kuna on selleks koolitatud (keeleteadlased), ning neljandaks tavalised inimesed, kes puutuvad keelepoliitikaga kokku näiteks oma ameti tõttu (tudengid, ülikoolide töötajad). Toimijad võivad osaleda keelepoliitikas muudatusi algatades, neid (ala)teadlikult edendades, nende vastu seistes või neid ellu viies. Toimijate seisukohtade uurimiseks kasutame argumentatsioonianalüüsi meetodit (van Eemeren and Henkemans 2017).

Analüüsime kõige värskemaid riigiseadusi ja strateegilisi dokumente, mis käsitlevad kõrghariduse keelepoliitikat, ja ülikoolide keelepõhimõtteid. Lisaks neile “külmutatud” ja ühehäälsetele diskursustele (Hult 2015) uurime indiviidide agentsust hiljutistes kõrghariduse keelepoliitikaga seotud avalikes aruteludes: Lätist oleme valinud kohtuvaidluse erakõrgkoolide õppekeele küsimuses, Eestist eestikeelsete õppekavade rahastamise arutelud ning Leedust keelestandardiseerimise debati.

Näitame artiklis, et nii Eestis, Lätis kui Leedus etendab kõrghariduse keelepoliitikas keskset rolli riik, kes kujutab avaõiguslikke ülikoole partneritena oma keelepoliitika elluviimisel, aga ei riik ega ülikoolid pole ühehäälsed ning kirjalikud keelepoliitika tekstid legitimeerivad teatud sarnaselt mõtlevate makroagentide seisukohad. Selline poliitika kaitseb riigikeelt ja nõustub inglise keele kasutamisega ülikoolides, samas kujutades inglise keele kasutamist kõrghariduses probleemina. Inglise keele kujutamine kõrghariduses ohuna annab riikidele võimaluse rõhutada riigipoliitika olulisust ohu vastu võitlemisel. Ohudiskursus on levinud kõigi postsovetlike riikide keelepoliitikas (Brubaker 2011) ning sellest kinnihoidmise vajalikkust just riigi tasandil on rõhutatud nende rahvusrühmade kollektiivse identiteedi hoidmiseks, kelle sotsiaalsed institutsioonid on pigem nõrgad (Ehala 2018).

Riigiesindajate tähtsus kõrghariduse keelepoliitikas aga ei tähenda, et teistel toimijatel poleks võimalust keelepoliitikat mõjutada. Meie analüüs näitab, et teisiti mõtlevad riigi või ülikoolide esindajad sekkuvad, kui pole riigi kõrghariduskeelepoliitikaga või selle elluviimisega rahul. Nii Eesti, Läti kui Leedu materjal näitab, et keelepoliitiline peaeesmärk on ühine – riigikeele hoidmine –, aga eriarvamusi tekitab just nimelt agentsus: missugune peaks olema riigi roll kõrghariduse keelepoliitikas võrreldes ülikoolide rolliga.

Summary in Latvian Valstu un universitāšu iesaiste valodas politikā augstakajā izglitibā Baltijas valstīs

Šajā rakstā tiek pētīta valsts un universitāšu kā aktīvu dalībnieku loma (angl. agency) augstākās izglītības valodas politikas veidošanā Latvijā, Igaunijā un Lietuvā, meklējot atbildes uz jautājumiem: 1) Kuri no jomā iesaistītajiem dalībniekiem aktīvi piedalās augstākās izglītības valodas politikas veidošanā? 2) Kādas ir viņu nostājas? 3) Kuru nostājas ir leģitimēti valodas politikas dokumentos?

Aktīvo dalībnieku jeb aģentu (angl. agents) pētīšanā ir izmantots Džao [Zhao] un Baldaufa [Baldauf] (2012) piedāvātais teorētiskais iedalījums aģentu izšķiršanai un viņu politiskās darbības izskaidrošanai. Līdz ar to tiek izšķirti četru veidu aģenti: pirmkārt, tie, kam ir juridiska vara pieņemt valodas politikas lēmumus (valsts politiķi un ierēdņi, kā arī universitāšu vadītāji); otrkārt, tie, kuri var ietekmēt valodas politikas procesus, jo ir sabiedrībā ietekmīgi (zinātnieki, profesori); treškārt, tie, kuru valodas politikas ietekme izriet no viņu izglītības un darbības sfēras (valodnieki), un, ceturtkārt, citi cilvēki, kuri saskaras ar valodas politiku, piemēram, savā profesijā (universitāšu darbinieki, studenti). Aģenti var aktīvi piedalīties valodas politikā, ierosinot pārmaiņas, tās apzināti vai neapzināti veicinot, tām pretojoties vai tās īstenojot. Aģentu nostāju noskaidrošanai tiek izmantota argumentācijas analīzes metode (van Eemeren and Henkemans 2017).

Rakstā tiek analizēti trīs valstu jaunākie augstākās izglītības valodas politikas likumi un stratēģiskie dokumenti, kā arī universitāšu pieņemtie iekšējās valodas politikas principi. Papildu šiem t. s. “iesaldētajiem” un vienbalsīgajiem diskursiem (Hult 2015) indivīdu dalība tiek pētīta neseno publisko diskusiju par valodas jautājumiem augstskolās kontekstā: Latvijas gadījumā tās ir tiesas debates par privāto augstskolu mācību valodas jautājumiem, Igaunijas gadījumā – par igauņu valodā īstenoto studiju programmu finansēšanu un Lietuvas gadījumā – par valodas standartizēšanu.

Rakstā secināts, ka visās Baltijas valstīs centrālā loma augstskolu valodas politikā ir valsts pārstāvjiem, kuri uzskata publiskās universitātes par partneriem valodas politikas īstenošanā. Toties ne valsts, ne universitātes nav vienbalsīgas, un valodas politikas dokumenti leģitimē līdzīgi domājošo makroaģentu nostājas. Valodas politikas principi ir aizsargāt valsts valodu un arī atzīt angļu valodas lietošanu augstskolās, bet vienlaikus tiek uzsvērts, ka angļu valodas lietošana augstskolās ir problēma un drauds valsts valodai. Angļu valodas kā drauda pozicionēšana augstākajā izglītībā dod valstīm iespēju uzsvērt valsts politikas nepieciešamību, lai cīnītos pret šo draudu. Šāds draudu diskurss ir izplatīts visu pēcpadomju valstu valodas politikās (Brubaker 2011), un nepieciešamība pieturēties pie tā tieši valsts līmenī ir bijusi uzsvērta nacionālo grupu kolektīvās identitātes saglabāšanai (Ehala 2018).

Valsts pārstāvju nozīme augstākās izglītības valodas politikā nenozīmē, ka citiem aģentiem nebūtu iespēju ietekmēt valodas politiku. Šī raksta analīzes daļa rāda, ka citu nostāju paudošie valsts vai universitāšu pārstāvji (jebkurā līmenī) iejaucas, kad nepiekrīt esošajai politikai vai tās īstenošanai. Igaunijā, Latvijā un Lietuvā valodas politikas galvenais mērķis – valsts valodas saglabāšana – ir kopīgs visiem aģentiem, bet domstarpības rodas par to, kādai, salīdzinot ar universitāšu lomu, jābūt valsts lomai valodas politikā augstākajā izglītībā.

Summary in Lithuanian Įtampa tarp valstybės ir universitetų Baltijos šalių aukštojo mokslo kalbų politikoje

Straipsnyje nagrinėjame aktyvią valstybės ir universitetų įtaką (angl. agency), formuojant Estijos, Latvijos ir Lietuvos aukštojo mokslo kalbos politiką. Ieškome atsakymų į šiuos klausimus: 1) Kokios galios jėgos (angl. agents) aktyviai dalyvauja formuojant kalbos politiką aukštajame moksle? 2) Kokia šių galios jėgų nuomonė? 3) Kieno pažiūros pripažintos teisėtomis kalbos politikos dokumentuose?

Aktyvių kalbos politiką veikiančių jėgų tyrime naudojame Zhao ir Baldaufo (2012) pasiūlytą teorinę sistemą, išskiriančią keturias kalbos politikos formavimą ir valdymą lemiančias jėgas: pirma, turinčiuosius juridinę galią priimti kalbos politikos sprendimus (valstybinio lygmens politikai ir pareigūnai, universitetų vadovai); antra, įtaką kalbos politikai darančius įtakingus visuomenėje asmenis – socialinį elitą (mokslininkus, filosofus, rašytojus); trečia, tiesiogiai su kalba susijusius asmenis – kalbos ekspertus (lingvistus) ir, ketvirta, su kalbos politika susiduriančiuosius, pavyzdžiui, savo profesinėje veikloje (studentus, universiteto dėstytojus ar darbuotojus). Anot Darquennenes ir kt., universitetų kalbos politiką veikia 3 lygmenų veikėjai: makro lygmens – išoriniai veikėjai, mezo lygmens – universiteto vadovai (abi šios grupės turi sprendimų priėmimo galią) ir mikro lygmens veikėjai – universiteto dėstytojai ir studentai. Visi jie gali dalyvauti inicijuojant, skatinant (sąmoningai ar ne), prieštaraujant arba įgyvendinant kalbos politikos pokyčius. Veikiančių jėgų pozicijoms nagrinėti naudojame pragmatinės-dialektinės argumentacijos analizės metodą (van Eemeren and Henkemans 2017).

Analizuojame naujausius nacionalinius įstatymus ir strateginius dokumentus apie kalbos politiką aukštajame moksle ir pačių universitetų kalbos politiką. Be šių “įšaldytų” ir vienbalsių diskursų (Hult 2015), nagrinėjame asmenų daromą įtaką pastaruoju metu vykstančiose viešose diskusijose apie kalbos politiką aukštajame moksle: pasirinkome ieškinį dėl dėstomosios kalbos privačiose aukštosiose mokyklose Latvijoje, diskusijas apie estų kalbos mokymo programos finansavimą Estijoje ir kalbos standartizavimo debatus Lietuvoje.

Straipsnyje parodome, kad Estijoje, Latvijoje ir Lietuvoje valstybė vaidina pagrindinį vaidmenį aukštojo mokslo kalbos politikoje kaip atvirosios teisės (angl. open law) universitetų partnerė įgyvendinant savo kalbos politiką, tačiau nei valstybė, nei universitetai nekalba vienu balsu. Kalbos politikos tekstai įteisina tam tikrų bendraminčių makroagentų nuomonę. Tokia politika saugo valstybinę kalbą ir sutinka su anglų kalbos naudojimu universitetuose, bet tuo pat metu anglų kalbos vartojimą mato kaip problemą aukštajame moksle. Anglų kalbos kaip grėsmės matymas aukštajame moksle suteikia šalims galimybę pabrėžti savo kalbos politikos svarbą kovojant su šia grėsme. Grėsmės diskursas plačiai paplitęs visų posovietinių šalių kalbos politikoje (Brubaker 2011), akcentuojamas poreikis jo laikytis nacionaliniu lygmeniu, dažnai siekiant išsaugoti gana silpnas socialines institucijas turinčių etninių grupių kolektyvinį tapatumą (Ehala 2018).

Tačiau valstybės atstovų svarba kalbos politikoje aukštajame moksle nereiškia, kad kiti veikėjai neturi galimybės daryti įtakos kalbos politikai. Mūsų analizė rodo, kad kitaip mąstantys valstybės ar universitetų atstovai aktyviai argumentuoja, jei nėra patenkinti šalies aukštojo mokslo kalbos politika ar jos įgyvendinimu. Estijos, Latvijos ir Lietuvos medžiaga rodo, kad pagrindinis visų kalbos politiką veikiančių jėgų tikslas yra bendras – valstybinės kalbos išsaugojimas, tačiau nesutarimai kyla sprendžiant, kokių priemonių reikia imtis šiam tikslui pasiekti ir kas turi vaidinti pagrindinį vaidmenį aukštojo mokslo politikoje – valstybė ar universitetai.


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Received: 2022-03-03
Revised: 2022-06-02
Accepted: 2022-06-13
Published Online: 2023-06-13

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

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