Solo saboteurs take the rap for torpedoing language drive

November 21, 2003

The government's national languages strategy is being undermined by a "free for all" in higher education that ignores national and regional needs, the government's languages advisory body warned this week.

A report from CILT, the National Centre for Languages, says that three-quarters of institutions had axed languages such as Arabic, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish.

A report for the advisory body found that 80 per cent had dropped courses "solely in response to local institutional demands, with no discussion of national or regional needs".

Degree courses in languages other than French, German and Spanish are difficult to find outside London and southeast England, the report also says.

Hilary Footitt, the report's author and chair of the University Council of Modern Languages, said: "It is extraordinary that a time when the government has developed its first national languages strategy, calling for more graduates in more languages, no one seems to care that actions by individual vice-chancellors could be de facto sabotaging the policy."

Government agencies and departments are reportedly struggling to find enough graduates with relevant language and cultural skills.

"There is little evidence this year that action is being taken to rectify the situation," the report says.

The report was compiled for the CILT, UCML and the Association for Language Learning.

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