The Univeristy of Cambridge’s decision to reduce teaching Portuguese, Hindi and Sanskrit has met with dismay among students. The Faculty of Oriental Studies, Hindi and Sanskrit has already been cut as a full BA honours degree. Academics were told last year to admit no more undergraduates for South Asian studies before the department was reorganised. Coincidentally, the decision emerged as Cambridge conferred an honorary degree on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Portuguese have already lodged a protest and the Indians expect the Indian government to also take notice of the plan. John Smith, one of two Sanskritists at the university, is taking early retirement as he “no longer wishes to be associated with Cambridge” and has also consulted the Indian High Commissioner.
The High Commission too raised the issue with the university, which responded that it had not “closed the door” on teaching Sanskrit and Hindi within the university. It said Sanskrit would continue to be taught to undergraduates reading theology and postgraduates studying Sanskrit as one of the great classical languages. Hindi would continue to be offered not only to postgraduates taking cultural South Asian studies but also to undergraduates and postgraduates who wish to use it to pursue research across the Social Sciences, Science and Technology. “The General Board of the University of Cambridge has endorsed a proposal to discontinue offering Sanskrit and Hindi to undergraduates within the Oriental Studies Tripos only, largely because there is very little demand,” it said.
But Kate Pretty, pro vice-chancellor, said no final decision had yet been taken on Portuguese, Hindi or Sanskrit.