UK still suffers trips of the tongues

August 29, 2013

Your editorial “A timely look under the bonnet” (22 August) is right to draw attention to the issue of language degrees, but one of the figures was inaccurate. As of 23 August, the number of students starting a language degree was not down by 13 per cent but by less than 0.5 per cent.

At A level, overall numbers fell by 4.5 per cent, while the move away from French and German and towards Spanish, Portuguese and other languages continues. At GCSE level, the English Baccalaureate effect meant that language entries were up by 15.5 per cent, and once again Spanish is the main beneficiary, showing a 25.8 per cent increase.

Nevertheless, the picture remains worrying for two reasons. First, UK exporters are under-performing because they are over-reliant on English-speaking markets. This costs the British economy billions of pounds a year in lost revenue. Second, languages are at risk of becoming the preserve of a social elite, taught only at high-achieving schools that advise their pupils to target only the most selective universities, and thus accelerating the concentration of provision in ever fewer institutions.

The university language community is responding actively. We are stimulating interest and demand through Routes into Languages, a programme supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England that involves 80 universities. We are devising new curricula and means of delivery that can attract a new type of student into language study. And we are stressing that foreign languages, like literacy and numeracy, are skills that everyone needs to possess. The number of students in UK universities who include one or more languages in their degree programme is rising fast as they recognise that graduates offering language skills, whether or not they have followed a specialist language degree, are in high demand and can enter a wide range of rewarding international careers.

Jim Coleman
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 6 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
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest