Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 16:21 UK

Public Petitions Committee 1

Oscar-winning playwright Sir Tom Stoppard told the Public Petitions Committee that if more was not done to protect lesser taught languages, their teaching would be "gone forever".

The writer, who won an Oscar for his screenplay Shakespeare in Love, delivered his message in support of a petition to the Scottish Parliament.

The petitioner is Jan Culik, senior lecturer in Czech studies, from Glasgow University, who also gave evidence to the commmittee.

Czechoslovakian-born Sir Tom wants to protect languages such as Russian, Czech and Polish.

The committee heard that languages have been in decline at Scottish universities for a number of years.

Currently the teaching of five languages face the axe at Glasgow University, where the Eastern European Centre is under threat after losing a funding revenue stream.

It is the only unit of its kind in the UK outwith London

Sir Tom, who came to Britain as a refugee, told MSPs: "For me the reputation for teaching language in general, and East European languages most particularly, gave Glasgow University, and by reflection the country, a distinction."

"It made it a place to be recommended everywhere."

He warned: "It is on its way out, it will be gone."

Jan Culik told MSPs the parliament should consider the issue important because: "If Glasgow University makes decisions which affect the whole nation it should be of political concern".

The committee will now send official letters to the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish government and Glasgow University asking what can be done to save the courses.

Also giving evidence on the petition was historian and political advisor Hugh McMahon.

In the second part of the committee MSPs took evidence on a petition calling for a ban on the use of wild animals. This can be viewed below.

Public Petitions Committee 2

Public Petitions Committee membership

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