Letter: Work abroad penalty (1)

August 10, 2001

Congratulations for pinpointing the complacency and insularity that has marked so much of the official discourse on internationalism in our universities (Analysis and Leader, THES , August 3).

In seeking to understand how we got into this position, let us not repeat comforting myths about students just not being interested in learning foreign languages.

The estimated 63,000 students who are voting with their feet and opting to take a language as a credited part of their degrees in non-language subjects - often in the teeth of considerable institutional disincentives - suggest that we have an excellent basis from which to increase United Kingdom participation in mobility programmes.

We need to address the fee discrepancies that discriminate against certain types of study-abroad arrangements, most notably work placements. We need to publicise the robust evidence that employers value the transferable skills of study abroad.

Above all, we need to join the rest of Europe in crediting study abroad in degree courses and designating languages as a graduate skill for all.

Hilary Footitt
Chair, University Council of Modern Languages

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