Jack Lang, France's new minister of education, has long-term plans for all students to graduate with a good command of two foreign languages. As a first step he is giving priority to the introduction of a certificate of language skills for higher education.
Last week, at its first meeting since Mr Lang took charge of education, the consultative National Council for Higher Education and Research approved the creation of the qualification, which will grade students' linguistic abilities according to three levels of competence.
Universities will be able to start introducing the certificate on a voluntary basis from next October. But Mr Lang has made it clear that his eventual ambition is for all students in higher education, no matter what they study, to complete their degrees having mastered two foreign languages. Mr Lang said there was much at stake for students and universities in the construction of a "European area of higher education". Introduction of the certificate comes as France is getting ready to take over the presidency of the European Union on July 1, and is in line with the EU's designation of 2001 as "languages year".