Encourage overseas study, says council

May 31, 2002

More students should be encouraged and given support to study abroad to "internationalise" UK higher education, the British Council has said.

UK graduates will suffer in competition for jobs in the emerging European and global employment market unless more are given the opportunity to study overseas, according to Judy Powell, the British Council's higher education director.

She said the government and institutions should work together to create more flexible options and support packages for study abroad so that overseas placements and exchanges are not just the preserve of language students and those from well-off families.

Ms Powell said: "The problem for UK graduates is that their counterparts in most other European countries have a good command of at least one other foreign language: usually English. That means our graduates have nothing extra to offer in the labour market. They are also missing out on the spin-offs of possessing language skills and studying abroad, such as intercultural understanding. If you do not have these skills, you are always in a dependency situation in the business world."

The British Council would like to open up the language assistants programme - where language students give English conversation classes in foreign schools and colleges - to students from a wider range of disciplines.

Another option would be to offer short periods of work experience abroad, building on opportunities available through the European Commission's Leonardo programme.

Means-tested support for poorer students would need to be built into the system, Ms Powell said.

The steering group of the Nuffield languages programme has expressed "grave doubts" about the government's 14-19 education proposals to make language learning an option at the age of 14.

It said the move would lead to a fall in the number of young people learning a language, which would have a knock-on effect on language learning at higher levels.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.