Language policies in Ukrainian higher education: Language in the firing line?

Ursula Lanvers, Tetyana Lunyova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ukraine has been a site of cyclical conflict over language rights and policies for decades.
Similar to Eastern bloc countries, Ukraine in the post-Soviet era saw tensions between
the then lingua franca, Russian and the national language, Ukrainian. Already before
its independence in 1991, Ukraine launched initiatives to revitalise and modernise their
language right after breaking from Soviet rule. Russia’s war against Ukraine has given a
significant lift to the popularity and learning of Ukrainian. Regarding English, the nation
is starting from a low base even though with a strong decision to join the Western world
with its values of democracy, human rights and freedom. Thus, lingo-political tensions in
Ukraine include the languages Ukrainian, Russian, English and other European languages.
This study asks how Ukrainian Higher Educational Establishments (HEIs) translate the triple
language agenda of de-Russification, Ukrainisation and Englishisation into their language
policies. It does so by investigating websites and official documents of fifteen universities
in Ukraine previously selected for the study by the British Council, using the framework of
critical discourse analysis and inductive coding. Results reveal that Ukrainian HEIs focus on
Ukrainian and English in their vision and recommended practice, while acknowledging other
European languages. The special status of the languages of national minorities is endorsed
in many HEIs, but never singling out Russian. Ukrainian HEIs develop their language policies
both in compliance with state legislation and with a keen awareness of European standards.
Linguistically, westernisation of Ukrainian HEIs strongly favours English as a global language,
although other European languages are considered. Concerning the Ukrainian-Russian
tensions, we observe increasing initiatives supported both by educational institutions and
the population as a whole, to revalidate Ukrainian and limit the use of Russian.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-68
Number of pages43
JournalEuropean Journal of Language Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2023

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© European Language Council/Conseil Européen pour les Langues.
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  • Ukraine
  • policy
  • education

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