English fears set forum in motion

December 1, 2000

English language associations are joining forces in an effort to improve public understanding of English. The Common English Forum will bring together the English Association, Council for College and University English and National Association for the Teaching of English.

Judy Simons, a former chairperson of CCUE, said concerns had been growing about the future of the subject because of changes to the A-level syllabus and the government's emphasis on employment-related degrees.

"There is a concern generally that the discipline is being devalued by government rhetoric that relates to skills and promotes vocational courses," she said. Some departments have had to downsize and many went into clearing this year, she said. The professional associations are working together to gather more statistics on the state of the subject.

Martin Dodsworth, chair of the English Association, said the forum should help universities and schools work together to deal with the changes introduced to the A-level syllabus. Mr Dodsworth is also worried that English is not being properly represented by the British Academy.

The forum, which will hold its second meeting in February, is likely to organise lectures, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and prizes.

• A British Academy review of graduate studies in the humanities and social sciences is to investigate the influence of low academic pay and career prospects on recruitment into humanities subjects.

The survey, which is questioning more than 1,500 heads of department by email, was prompted by concerns that applications by home students to do doctorates in the humanities were declining.

But initial consultation with professional bodies and learned societies has suggested retaining PhD graduates as academics may be just as much of a problem.

The full report will be published early next summer.

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