Gift of tongues freely taken

March 1, 2012

"Arts and humanities offer Hobson's choice" (23 February) paints a gloomy and misleading picture of the health of modern languages in UK universities. The University and College Union survey Choice Cuts: How Choice Has Declined in Higher Education simply misreports the availability of French and German: in the North East, for instance, both are available as single or combined honours subjects at Durham and Newcastle universities.

More broadly, recruitment to language degrees in UK universities has increased every year since 2004. Students from other disciplines taking language courses have never been more numerous (with a year-on-year increase of up to 30 per cent in many cases), as they recognise the boost to employability that languages offer and universities see the links to internationalisation.

Despite the disincentive of additional costs for four-year degrees including years abroad, the fall in applications for 2012 entry may not translate into fewer admissions (for example, the 35 per cent decline in applications for Japanese looks like a tsunami effect), and will probably be at worst a temporary setback, as the future looks much more promising.

The English Baccalaureate has already boosted the numbers taking language GCSEs and a revised and more attractive curriculum is on its way. New language A levels are being designed to maintain motivation and prepare students specifically for university. We are confident that the growing recognition of the need for graduate language skills promises a bright future for modern languages in UK universities.

Jim Coleman, The Open University, Chair, University Council of Modern Languages

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns