More university language departments could face closure if student recruitment continues to decline, a sector leader has warned.
Ucas data show that the number of applicants placed on to European language and literature courses at UK higher education institutions on A-level results day was down 7.8 per cent year-on-year, with an intake of 3,080 being a record low for recent years.
Non-European language and literature courses experienced a similar decline, with just 940 students placed on these programmes as results were released.
The key problem facing these courses is a decline in the number of students sitting the relevant language A levels that are required for entry.
Entries to A levels in French dropped 6.4 per cent year-on-year, with German down 4.2 per cent and Spanish declining by 2.7 per cent.
René Koglbauer, president of the Association for Language Learning and senior lecturer in Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, said that he feared more universities would close their departments if undergraduate recruitment did not turn around.
“If the numbers continue to decline, then it’s likely that the offer of languages at universities might decline, at least in terms of degrees,” Dr Koglbauer said. “The fewer A-level students we have got, the fewer you can recruit into your programmes, and the weaker ones might have to close.”
The decline in the number of students taking language A levels has been blamed on funding shortages in schools and colleges, which struggle to support courses that have traditionally had small cohorts.
But languages at university level also face an uncertain future due to the expiry of support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for the Routes into Languages programme, which provided £10.5 million for outreach over the past decade.
Modern European languages are also heavily exposed to changes in immigration rules that may follow the UK’s vote to leave the European Union: 46.4 per cent of academics in this field are drawn from the Continent, significantly higher than any other discipline.