Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.

Language Learning - Higher Education

Languages beyond school

17 September 2021 (SCILT)

If you have pupils considering language study once they move on from secondary education, the Beyond School section of our website contains a wealth of information about university and college language courses, study abroad and volunteering opportunities overseas. With links to UCAS and university guides it's also a useful resource for careers guidance staff to be aware of and highlight to students as the UCAS application process gets underway.


Certificate of Continuing Education (CCEd) in Italian & Spanish

15 June 2021 (University of Strathclyde)

The Certificate of Continuing Education (CCEd) is an intensive beginners’ class that will bring you up to first-year university standard in a year, with the option of continuing your studies into second year and up to university pass degree level within three years. We are currently accepting applications for the next three-year cycle of the Certificate of Continuing Education in Italian (we will also accept applications for direct entry to second year, commencing September 2022, from suitably qualified candidates) and the Certificate of Continuing Education in Spanish which, numbers permitting, will both commence in September 2021.

Follow the appropriate link below to find out more about each of the course options:

Online taster events: German language and culture

1 June 2021 (King's College London)

King's College London is running two online taster events next month for Year 12 students (S5 in Scotland) who would like to find out about studying German at university. These will include a short talk and Q+A, a language taster class, and a cultural studies session. Follow the relevant link below for further information about each event:

One in five students say bad A-level advice led to lack of degree choice – poll

25 March 2021 (The Guardian)

One in five students at university say they were unable to study degree subjects that interested them because they didn’t receive good advice from their school on which A-levels and GCSEs to pick, a poll shows.

The students had been unable to study degrees such as medicine, dentistry, maths, economics and languages because these courses require specific qualifications.

Two in five of the 27,000 first- and second-year students at UK universities, including those from overseas, polled by the University and College Admissions Service (Ucas) said they would have made different choices if they had received better careers advice.


The health of UK language study is lost in translation

9 March 2021 (THE)

Grim statistics on single-honours enrolments bely an explosion in joint-honours provision, says Katherine Astbury.

Languages are in decline in UK secondary schools. This is well known and barely counts as news these days. It started well before the Covid pandemic and Brexit piled on additional pressures.

This has had a knock-on effect on universities. The University of Hull is the latest in a growing list of institutions to announce the closure of language degrees. A Times Higher Education article last week with the alarming headline “Languages decline see numbers drop to zero at UK universities” added to a long line of pieces heralding impending doom.

But the figures initially quoted for the universities of Warwick, Southampton and Newcastle baffled colleagues at all three institutions because they bore no relation to the reality on the ground. Why then did the article – and the Ucas figures it was based on – suggest that acceptances had shrunk by so much?  

The answer lies in a shift in student applications away from single-honours degrees and towards combining specialist language learning and a non-language subject. The figures took no account of the fact that students are now much more likely to study two or three languages alongside another discipline than to focus on one language alone.

Of course that term “alone” is itself misleading. Even a single-honours degree will involve the study of the linguistics, literature, film, politics, art and culture of the countries where that language is spoken. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Languages beyond school

4 September 2020 (SCILT)

If you have pupils considering language study once they move on from secondary education, the Beyond School section of our website contains a wealth of information about university and college language courses, study abroad and volunteering opportunities overseas. With links to UCAS and university guides it's also a useful resource for careers guidance staff to be aware of and highlight to students as the UCAS application process gets underway.


Coronavirus: Covid-19 cuts short students' year abroad studying

24 August 2020 (BBC)

Swapping Port Talbot for Paris was a big deal for Maia Evans. It was the first time she'd left home and the reason she chose to study French.

So you can imagine the 21-year-old's frustration when she had to abruptly leave her class, leave her adopted French family and leave France altogether when coronavirus took hold.

"I was loving it," recalled Maia. "The children were great, my family was lovely and my French was improving massively. Then France shut down overnight."

When Maia bid au revoir to Aberavon Beach she was excited to immerse herself in French culture - not just living with different people for the first time, but people who spoke another language.

It was going to be more Seine and Sacre-Coeur than the steelworks and Swansea Bay of home for Maia and she enjoyed every second in Paris' bustling suburbs.


Heriot-Watt’s search for £9m cuts puts university’s languages department at risk

6 August 2020 (The Times)

A Scottish university is reviewing the future of its entire foreign languages department as it looks at how to cut its wage bill by £9 million over two years.

Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, widely seen as Scotland’s centre of excellence for translation studies, has commissioned an external review into French, German, Spanish and Chinese classes.


Taster events at King's College London

5 March 2020 (King's College London)

King's College London is running taster events over the next few months for students in Years 11&12 (S4&S5) who are interested in finding out about what it is like to study German/Modern Languages at university. We would be delighted to welcome your students at these events. Attendance is free, but places are limited so advance booking is required. Further details can be found by clicking on the web links below.

  1. Modern Languages Taster Day. 1st April 2020, 1pm-5.15pm.
  2. Modern Languages and European Studies. 4th June 2020. 10.30am-4.00pm.
  3. German Taster Day. 16th June 2020. 10.30am-4.00pm.
  4. Studying German from Scratch. 18th June 2020. 1.30pm-5.00pm.

Language Ambassadors: Encouraging Pupils to Learn Languages

5 December 2019 (University of Stirling)

Over the course of this Autumn/Winter semester at Stirling, we’ve continued to develop our work with secondary schools, sometimes focusing primarily on French, sometimes working in collaboration with our colleagues in Spanish, always underlining the advantages that come through studying languages. We’re hoping to post a few more updates about these activities over the coming weeks and, to start with, we’re pleased to be able to post the following article, co-written by Laura, who is in the final year of a BA Hons in English Studies and French, and Michael, who is in Year 2 of his BA Hons programme in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages. Laura and Michael’s day saw them representing French at Stirling as Language Ambassadors at Williamwood High School in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.


UNIQ Spring and Summer Schools 2020

29 November 2019 (University of Oxford)

UNIQ Spring and Summer gives students in UK state schools and colleges an opportunity to sample the Oxford undergraduate student experience. Applicants will live in an Oxford college for a week, attend lectures and seminars in their chosen subject area, and receive expert advice on the Oxford application and interview process. The timetable also allows plenty of time for social activities.

For those unable to attend the Oxford campus, the UNIQ Digital programme provides comprehensive information and guidance on the university admissions process, and aims to provide a realistic view of Oxford student life through videos, activities and quizzes. 

A wide range of courses are on offer, including several language study options.

Visit the UNIQ website for more information about the programmes on offer and to apply. Applications are open from 2 December 2019 to 27 January 2020.


Private schools warn uni cap would lead to brain drain

2 October 2019 (TES)

Private schools heads have warned of a possible “brain drain” if Labour were to introduce its proposed 7 per cent cap on university admissions from the independent sector, with pupils opting to study abroad instead.

Chris Ramsey, co-chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) universities committee, said some subjects like modern foreign languages could be severely impacted by such a cap.

“If you take a subject like MFL, our latest survey told us that 2,500 of our independently educated upper-sixth-formers were applying for modern languages courses," he said, speaking at the HMC annual conference in London.

"That’s one-fifth of the modern languages undergraduates that there are in the country. 

"So if you just take that one subject, if only 7 per cent came in, where are the modern linguists going to come from, or are we just going to shrink the numbers of language students in our country?

(Subscription required to access full article)


Humanities graduates have invaluable skills for a huge range of careers

24 September 2019 (The Times)

Choosing what to study at university is perhaps more challenging in 2019 than it has been to date [...] The case for studying the humanities and social sciences — subjects such as English literature, history, languages, law, psychology, anthropology and economics — is indisputable. These subjects are about world-changing ideas, evidence-based research, relentless inquiry and rigorous debate, and are, therefore, enjoyable and rewarding pursuits in and of themselves. But crucially, they also offer a platform for a solid, varied and exciting career.…

Subscription required to read full article


We need languages graduates to steer us through our post-Brexit troubled waters

31 July 2019 (The Guardian)

Just after the first world war, the UK produced its most comprehensive review of languages provision, the Leathes report. In the Brexit era we’re now faced yet again with different ideological, cultural and economic battles that have us examining our languages capacity, and discovering it falls well short of what is required.

After Brexit we will need a strong language base for trade, international relations and soft power. Yet instead of a growth in languages, we’re experiencing steep decline: the number of modern languages undergraduates fell by 54% between 2008–9 and 2017–18. With fewer students applying, at least 10 modern languages departments have closed in the last decade (the University of Hull is the most recent casualty), and many others have shrunk in size or reduced their range of languages. By one estimate, the number of German units has halved from more than 80 in 2002 to fewer than 40 today.

Second, if Brexit and the debate over the Irish backstop have taught us anything, it is that we need subject specialists with language skills – lawyers, economists, geographers, engineers, and business graduates with the language skills to understand, negotiate, and argue the details.

Third, we urgently need more language graduates with at least two languages to degree level to teach in schools and rebuild and sustain primary and secondary languages. At present we risk most state schools offering pupils only one language to GCSE and many offering none at all to A-level, in a way that would never be tolerated for the sciences.

To win back students, a new approach is needed. 


The 14th Japanese Speech Contest for University Students

1 November 2018 (Japan Foundation London)

We are delighted to announce that the 14th Japanese Speech Contest for University Students is open for applications!

This contest gives students the chance to make their voices heard in Japanese, and win some fantastic prizes! Finalists will all perform their speeches on Saturday 2nd March 2019 at King’s College London.


Languages Beyond School

21 September 2018 (SCILT)

As the UCAS application process gets underway, make sure any pupils thinking of continuing their language studies check out the Beyond School section of our website.

This section contains useful information to help senior pupils decide on the different language courses and options available once they have left school, at college, university or as part of a gap year. There are links to courses available in Scotland and across the UK.

Pupils, parents, guidance and careers staff should all find this section of our website useful.


University guide 2019: league table for modern languages & linguistics

30 May 2018 (Guardian)

Find out more about studying modern languages from around the world and their literatures, as well as linguistics.


Residential Study Visits - St Anne's College, Oxford

29 March 2018 (University of Oxford)

Applications are now open for St Anne's College, Oxford one-night Residential Study Visits in Geography, Music and English/Modern Languages! 

These Residential Study Visits are designed to give students from backgrounds and schools with limited experience of Oxford a taste of what it’s like to live and study as an undergraduate at St Anne’s College and Oxford University.

The visits all take place during June 2018 and are open to Year 12 students from all UK state schools/colleges. Accommodation, travel and meals are included.

Visit the website for more information and to apply by 7 May 2018.


Foreign Language Enrollments Drop Sharply

12 March 2018 (Inside Higher Education)

Foreign language enrollments dropped 9.2 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2016, according to new data from the Modern Language Association. The drop is the second largest since the MLA started tracking such information in 1958.


Worrying decline in study of languages, warns British Academy

11 January 2018 (British Academy)

Following today’s publication by HESA of HE Student Statistics (2016/17), the British Academy has expressed concerns at a decline of student numbers choosing languages at undergraduate level. Entries for full-time and part-time undergraduate students taking languages were down 4% and 9% respectively. The British Academy is deeply concerned that this year’s decline will further reduce the already low supply of students who are qualified to go on to careers as language teachers in secondary schools.


Graduate jobs: top 12 degree subjects for getting a job

12 May 2017 (The Telegraph)

Competition for graduate jobs has never been more fierce. With tuition fees and living costs representing financial sacrifices for many, students reasonably demand degree courses that offer them the best value for money in today's tough jobs market.

Languages feature in the list of the top 12 degree subjects.


QS world university rankings 2017: modern languages

8 March 2017 (The Guardian)

The top 50 universities in the world for modern languages, as ranked by higher education data specialists QS.


Translation Course for University Students March 2017

17 February 2017 (Alliance Française)

The Alliance Française de Glasgow will be running a new translation course specifically designed for students who are currently studying French at University. This course will increase language skills and should greatly help prepare for exams where translation is involved.

This new 5-week course will take place on Wednesdays between 3.45-5.45pm starting Wednesday 1 March.

Visit the website for more information and to enrol by Saturday 25 February.


UCAS: End of year acceptances cycle 2016 published

19 December 2016 (UCML)

19 December 2016: UCAS published data for the end-of-year acceptances cycle for 2016. Although overall the trend for language acceptances continues to decrease (-8% overall on last year), there are some positive signals coming from some of the languages.


French grammar course for university students

22 September 2016 (Alliance Française)

The Alliance Française in Glasgow will be running a new grammar course specifically designed for students who are currently studying French at University. This course will increase students' language skills and should greatly help prepare for exams.

The 5-week course takes place on Wednesdays commencing 19 October.

Visit the Alliance Française website for more information and to enrol.


S@S Accelerate Languages Challenge 2016

3 May 2016 (University of Strathclyde)

S@S Accelerate is a one-week programme in July, held at the University of Strathclyde, for pupils at the end of S4, S5 and S6. It aims to provide a targeted focus on the pupils’ chosen area of academic interest, giving them a head start on the road to their chosen career.

One of the ten challenges on offer is the Languages Challenge. A team of academic experts has put together a week-long ‘Giga Challenge’ in the area of languages that will allow pupils to find out all about the area and the career opportunities open to them.

Enabling students to participate in group challenges that use their language skills, and see the role that languages play in the world, will make them feel much more enthusiastic about languages in the school classroom and going on to study them at University.

Further information about the Languages Challenge is available on the attached flyer.

For full details of all the challenges available under the S@S Accelerate programme and information on how to apply, visit the University of Strathclyde Accelerate webpage.


Born Global evidence published by the British Academy

31 March 2016 (British Academy)

Born Global is a resource for the languages community to use to help make the case for the importance and value of studying languages.

Born Global consists of quantitative and qualitative data on the complex relationship between language learning and employability. Each data set is accompanied by a booklet with background information and a summary of key findings. The data is open and free to use, it is available on the British Academy website.

The British Academy has used this evidence in a new publication Born Global: Implications for Higher Education. It offers reflections on the current state of play for languages at university, and can be downloaded from the British Academy website.


Thinking about a degree at Oxford? Why not try us out for a week this summer?

20 January 2016 (Oxford University)

Would you like to spend a week with us this summer, living in an Oxford college, learning about a modern foreign language and its culture, and getting a taste of what it’s like to study here as a student? All entirely FREE of charge, food and accommodation included? (We’ll even pay for your train ticket to get here.)

If you’re currently in Year 12 (S5) of a state school, and have some free time in July this year, please do think about signing up for the course, or for one of the dozens of others on offer, including German, Spanish, or ‘beginner languages’ to give you a little experience of Russian, Portuguese and Italian languages and cultures.

The French summer school runs from 2-8 July this year, the German summer school and the Beginner Languages school both run from 16-22 July, and Spanish is 23-29 July.

Visit the website for more information and to apply by 3 February 2016.


School language learning decline tackled by universities

3 December 2015 (BBC News)

A new scheme to help reverse a sharp decline in foreign language learning in schools in Wales has been announced by four universities.

In June, a report found the number of children studying a language at GCSE fell by a third between 2005 and 2014.

Under the pilot project, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea undergraduates will be trained to coach school pupils on their language skills.

The scheme is funded by Welsh ministers' Global futures programme.

Prof Claire Gorrara from Cardiff University, the academic leading the project, said there was increasing evidence the drop in foreign language learning was limiting young people's educational, training and career opportunities.


Northumbria University the latest to draw back on language provision

22 October 2015 (THE)

Further fears have been raised that language courses in the UK are becoming the preserve of the most selective universities after Northumbria University became the latest institution to draw back from provision.

Following a “languages review”, Northumbria announced last month that its “BA French and Spanish will be closed, there will be no further recruitment to this programme”.

A spokesman for the university told Times Higher Education that the move was one of various changes “to the way we deliver language learning” in response to “a fall in demand across the sector over the past 10 years”. Nevertheless, he added, the university “remain[ed] committed to the teaching of foreign languages”, for example through joint programmes and as part of its international business management degree.

The decision to close the French and Spanish BA went ahead despite a petition by alumni and interventions from embassies and academics across the world. The students’ union also strongly criticised plans to “abolish our only standalone foreign language programme”, which had “average[d] above 95 per cent over the past five years in the National Student Survey”.


Language class demands in NI can be met by FE colleges, says UU vice-chancellor

21 October 2015 (BBC News)

The vice chancellor of Ulster University (UU) has said demand for modern language learning in Northern Ireland can be met by further education colleges.

Professor Paddy Nixon was giving evidence to the Stormont Committee for Employment and Learning.

In September, UU said it would close its school of modern languages.

He said the university was "no longer funded to provide the degrees people might like."

Responding to a question from committee chair, UUP MLA Robin Swann, Prof Nixon said that FE colleges could teach languages at the level needed in Northern Ireland.

"The FE provision in languages is actually - particularly when it's about spoken languages as opposed to what a university should be doing, which is a different thing altogether - quite extensive."

"So there is an ability for the system in Northern Ireland to support language provision at the level we need it for business and industry."


Degrees suffer as language courses surge

29 September 2015 (The Times)

Spoken language courses offered by universities to all undergraduates are in such demand that they have overtaken formal language degrees in popularity.

German, which has suffered a near collapse in schools, is among the chief beneficiaries.

Last year 7,937 students enrolled on non-specialist German courses at universities, up 20 per cent on 2013 and almost twice the number that studied it at A level.

(Please note this is a preview article, a subscription is required to view the full content).


Language study beyond school

11 September 2015 (SCILT)

Do you have students looking to further or develop their language learning on leaving school? Make sure they know about the Beyond School section of the SCILT website. With useful information on different language courses and options available here in Scotland, there are also links to UCAS and language courses UK-wide to help their selection process and the transition from school.

The section includes advice and information on:

  • The benefits of language learning for you and your career 
  • Undergraduate language courses at Scottish and UK universities 
  • Options for combining languages with other degree subjects 
  • Beginner and refresher language courses and modules at Scotland’s colleges 
  • The gap year – opportunities to study, work or volunteer abroad 
  • The student voice – blogs, advice, hints and tips from those who’ve been there

The site also outlines the support Scottish universities can provide to teachers and schools in their language teaching and staff professional development.

So please make your language teaching professionals, pupils and guidance staff aware of the ‘Beyond School’ website. It’s got their language needs covered!


Modern languages ‘sold short by REF’

26 August 2015 (THE)

Modern languages studies may have been harshly treated in the research excellence framework (REF) because it was assessed in the same subpanel as linguistics, academics have claimed.

With language departments already under pressure from declining student numbers, some scholars have complained that the structure of the panel used to judge their research has done little to help the subject area.

Under new arrangements adopted for the 2014 REF, modern languages research was included alongside linguistics in subpanel 28, rather than being assessed separately in seven smaller subject units, as in the 2008 research assessment exercise (RAE).


Guardian University Guide 2016: the subject tables

25 May 2015 (The Guardian)

League tables of all 53 subject areas taught at UK universities, including Modern Languages and Linguistics, with listings of the courses available in each of those subjects.


Stop Telling Students Their Languages Degrees Are Useless

30 March 2015 (Huffington Post)

Please don't tell me how much my degree is worth. If you're being awkward, it is actually worth somewhere between £28,350 and £36,000 (I'm too afraid to do an actual run of the numbers), which is statistically more than you have ever paid or will ever pay if you are a student from the UK. But really, what is a language degree worth? At the end of the day, I'm paying all this money for something more than a certificate and a photo opportunity on graduation day... right?


Good news for language learning: UCML and AULC publish the annual report on take-up of Institution Wide Language Programmes

2 March 2015 (UCML/AULC)

Each year the Association of University Language Centres in the UK and Ireland conduct a survey to explore the take up of Institution-Wide Language Programmes (for credit and not for credit) in UK universities.

UCML co-publishes this report with AULC and support from the Higher Education Academy. The report from this year's survey (conducted in autumn 2014) is now published.

It includes analysis of various trends (by language, by balance of credit and not etc) across the sector.

It is clear from this report that the trend continues to be for increasing demand for language learning in HE alongside the study of other disciplines.


Only one in 65 new students chooses a modern language degree – we need a rethink

19 February 2015 (The Conversation)

Out of nearly half a million students who enrolled on a degree course in the UK last year, just over 8,000 of them studied a foreign language. New figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) have crystallised the difficult situation facing university language departments across the country. Only one in every 65 first-year students chooses a modern foreign language degree, showing a decline from one in every 48 in 2007.

Most university subjects are recovering from the recruitment crash of 2012-13, the first year that universities could charge fees up to £9,000 – and some subjects are showing steady numbers of enrolments. Since 2007, the numbers of students starting degree courses in subjects allied to medicine have risen a meteoric 39% and there has been a 30% increase in biological sciences. The figures are no less impressive for the mathematical sciences and business administration, both with a 24% increase.

But this is not the case for modern foreign languages where there is little sign of post-fees recovery.


Dramatic decline in number of university students taking modern foreign languages

14 February 2015 (The Telegraph)

The number of students taking foreign languages at university has dramatically declined over the past seven years, according to new figures. 

Entrants for modern foreign language degree courses fell by 16 per cent between 2007/08 and 2013/14, Higher Education Statistics Agency's latest (HESA) data shows. 

The statistics will spark fresh concerns about the future of language study, amid reports that some university departments are being forced to cut back or close down due to a lack of demand.


2014 report on language teaching in degree programmes

23 January 2015 (UCML)

A summary of the current state of languages in HE in universities across UK. A report on the basis of a survey of contact hours, credit loads and progression routes through the main 'European' languages taught within named degree programmes.

Download from right hand column through the link below.


Why I would choose an immersion course over a language degree

6 January 2015 (The Guardian)

After a disappointing four year degree in Arabic, it was only in an immersion course that Fred McConnell discovered the magic of language learning.


Languages for their future: support your students as they consider studying languages beyond school

31 October 2014 (SCILT)

Do you have students who are thinking about continuing with languages when they leave school? As the UCAS application process gets underway, the Beyond School section of our website contains useful information to help them decide on the different language courses and options available:

There’s lots of information on…

  • Languages – the benefits for you and your career
  • Undergraduate language courses at Scottish and UK universities – what’s available where
  • Enhance your degree – options for combining languages with other subjects
  • The gap year – opportunities to study, work or volunteer abroad
  • Student experiences – advice from those who’ve been there, done it and got the t-shirt!

Please make your pupils, guidance and careers staff aware of the ‘Beyond School’ website. It covers all their language needs -


New Grammar Course for University students

30 September 2014 (Alliance française )

The Alliance Française de Glasgow will be running a 5-week grammar course specifically designed for students who are currently studying French at University. 

Between Wednesday 22nd October and Wednesday 19th November incl. 


Fees: £60 per student. 

Please visit or contact the Language Office before Friday 17th October if you wish to enrol. Places are limited.


My languages guilt: am I making the most of my degree?

31 July 2014 (The Guardian)

The government complains about a modern languages skills gap, but graduates often find they have to retrain to get a job.

When I chose to study French and Spanish at university, I thought I was taking one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a spy for MI6. I had visions of taking down drug cartels in Mexico and combating bribery and corruption in the French-speaking parts of Africa.

If that didn't materialise (it hasn't ... yet), I thought I would waltz into a multinational corporation and command an excellent job with a great benefits package, based purely on the fact that I had a languages degree.

The reality was to prove quite different...

...But, do I regret my choice of degree? Not for a second. I get a thrill every time I get a chance to practise my languages, and being able to converse in something other than English never fails to impress.


Sunderland agrees to waive year-abroad fees

15 June 2014 (THE)

The University of Sunderland has joined a growing list of institutions who have decided to waive fees for language students on a study year abroad.


University guide 2015: league table for modern languages and linguistics

3 June 2014 (The Guardian)

University rankings include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, south Asian, African, Australasian, modern Middle Eastern languages, and literature and linguistics.


Related Links

Key to the university guide tables 2015 – what does each column mean? (Guardian, 3 June 2014)

How to use the Guardian University Guide 2015 (Guardian, 3 June 2014) - Our mobile-friendly guide can help you find the perfect course at a UK university.

UK Youth Employment to Worsen on Lack of Language Skills

22 April 2014 (International Business Times)

Britain's dire youth unemployment situation could worsen as Ucas figures show that there has been a 5% drop in modern language applications, says a leading translation and interpretation group. According to All Languages, the latest set of Ucas figures, which show a 5% drop in modern language applications despite the overall number of students applying for university places rising, will only exacerbate tougher competition for graduate positions due to the lack of language skills.

Universities must make languages relevant

16 April 2014 (The Guardian)

The numbers of students studying languages degrees is at its lowest in a decade – universities must make their academic study more pertinent, argues Katrin Kohl.

The contrast between the plummeting number of undergraduates in modern foreign language (MFL) courses and the soaring number of students in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjectsgives an insight into the power of policy-makers to influence the fate of academic subjects. While the government has been pumping funding into Stem subjects, modern languages have suffered under successive governments from underfunding and a lack of joined-up policies.


UK students taking languages degrees at record low

10 April 2014 (The Guardian)

The number of students taking a language degree is at the lowest level in a decade. A report released today from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) found the number of students being accepted onto full-time modern foreign language (MFL) courses dropped by nearly a quarter (22%) between the academic years 2010-11 and 2012-13.


Related Links

Good news for universities?

1 April 2014 (Linguist)

Nick Byrne on the increase in non-specialist language provision.

Next year, I will have worked as a language provider in the Higher Education sector for a quarter of a century. For the last ten years, in particular, I have monitored the rise in non-specialist language provision for the Association of University Language Centres (AULC), the Departments of Education and Business, Hefce (the Higher Education Fudning Council for England) and the European Commission.


Edinburgh University in top five in the UK

26 February 2014 (The Herald)

Edinburgh University has outperformed rival institutions in Scotland in a new higher education league table. The university came in the top five in the UK in 10 out of 30 subject disciplines - far more than any other Scottish institution.

Edinburgh University came top in the country for linguistics, beating both Oxford and Cambridge to the top spot.  The university came 12th for Modern Languages.


Related Links

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2014 - Modern Languages (Top Universities, 26 February 2014) University of Edinburgh is 12th in the list.

Modern languages and linguistics postgraduate and master's courses in 2014

25 February 2014 (The Guardian)

University performance data for modern languages and linguistics in our sortable table.


Less people in NZ studying languages

16 February 2014 (3 News)

New Zealand students are dropping foreign languages at university level at a rate so high some languages are disappearing completely from the education system. Experts are warning that a country that only learns its own language could face big problems down the track.


We need to fall back in love with learning languages

14 February 2014 (The Conversation)

The drop in applications to European language programmes at UK universities will not have come as a great shock to anybody teaching languages. For at least the past 15 years, the number of students applying for modern language degrees has been in decline.


Annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities

11 February 2014 (UCML)

The report from the annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities has now been published. The responses indicate an increase in numbers of students enrolled on such programmes nationally, even taking into account a slight increase in the number of universities responding this year.


3rd year BA research posters blog

4 February 2014 (SCILT)

Along with her Spanish and Italian colleagues, Caroline Verdier, Teaching Fellow in French at the University of Strathclyde, challenged 3rd Year students to work in groups on a research project.  The groups had 'carte blanche' to research any aspect of life or identity in a country where the target language is spoken. Subjects included independence movements in Spain and Scotland, the representation of Ancient Rome in cinema and on television and the status of Paris in the world of fashion.  There were also some case studies about businesses such as of Renault, Zara and Veuve Cliquot.

Information about the rationale, the research process and the findings were distilled and displayed in a poster.  The posters were very creative, many were interactive and had 3D elements.  An exhibition to showcase all the posters took place in the McCance Conservatory in April 2013.  During Spring 2014, posters and abstracts from this year’s 3rd Year students will be added to the blog.

This blog would be a good tool to support pupils involved in research for the IP strand of the Languages Baccalaureate.


Languages reading list: Disney ignores Africa, whistling and Polish for police

1 February 2014 (Guardian - The case for languages learning series)

In Northamptonshire police officers learn Polish, the ancient art of whistling lives on in Turkey and Disney is accused of ignoring African languages.


Why the drop in university applications for languages is worrying

31 January 2014 (Guardian)

Ucas figures showing falling applications for modern language degrees pose a real problem for Britain.


Related Links

  • University applications hit record high (Guardian, 31 January 2014)
    [...] The number of applicants for European language courses fell by 5%, from 20,350 last year to 19,300. Applications for engineering are up from 127,000 to 141,000, and for computer science from 86,300 to 97,000. Wendy Piatt, director of the Russell Group of research universities, said: "We are worried by the continuing drop in applicants for both European and non-European languages. We need language graduates to meet the needs of our economy and society."

Beyond School - new section of the SCILT website

6 December 2013 (SCILT)

Our new ‘Beyond School’ section on the SCILT website offers help and advice to young people about the many ways they can continue to develop their language skills, whether by making the transition from school to a course at university or by studying, working or volunteering overseas. As well as general help and advice on making the move to university and courses available, there are links to potential career paths and opportunities and what support is available to schools to help promote languages as a subject choice at university.


Russell Group quizzed on 'facilitating subjects' list

26 September 2013 (BBC News)

The Russell Group has been asked to produce research on what subjects teenagers need to get in to their universities, after a study cast doubt on so-called "preferred subjects".

The Russell Group's advice is in a document called Informed Choices which lists "facilitating subjects", saying they are sometimes "required more than others".

The subjects are maths, further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and languages.


Bright Future for Gaelic Education at Lews Castle College UHI

25 June 2013 (PRWeb)

The University of the Highlands & Islands [UHI] this month hosted a lecture in Stornoway entitled “Gaelic in Education.” The keynote speakers were Mr. Iain Macmillan, Principal of Lews Castle College UHI and Dr. Frances Murray, Rector of the Nicolson Institute. The event was chaired by Mr. Matthew Maciver Chair of the UHI Court and retired Chief Executive of the GTC in Scotland.

Mr. Maciver introduced the lecture by stating that UHI was hosting the lecture in Stornoway to highlight the Gaelic Medium Higher Education courses which the university offers and that UHI had now been accredited to deliver a new Post Graduate Primary Teaching course in English and Gaelic.


Parochialism warning over demise of language studies

16 April 2013 (The Herald)

The demise of modern languages at Scottish universities and schools has been blamed on greater parochialism since devolution. The assertion is made in a major new report on the health of minority European languages such as Russian, Polish and Czech.

The report, by the UK-wide Higher Education Academy (HEA), follows the closure of a number of language courses at Scottish universities in recent years. The number of pupils taking Highers in some modern languages has also fallen.


Why I'm glad I gave languages a second chance

18 February 2013 (The Guardian)

Don't let poor school grades put you off studying a language. Years abroad and evening classes mean there are plenty of ways to learn.


University applications 2013: what subjects are people applying for?

30 January 2013 (The Guardian)

The number of applicants to UK universities has risen by 3.5%.

Computer sciences had the highest increase in total applications (up by 12.3% at the same point last year). It seems social sciences, arts and languages are feeling the biggest decreases.


Survey of Institution-wide Language Provision in Higher Education 2012-13 published

22 January 2013 (UCML)

The survey, carried out by UCML, AULC and the Higher Education Academy, aimed to obtain a picture of the current availability and demand for Institution-wide Language Provision (IWLP) across the higher education sector in the UK.

The full report can be downloaded from the UCML website.


Why aren't languages a more popular choice at university?

15 January 2013 (The Independent)

It seems as if languages are not a popular choice of course at university nowadays. Once upon a time, learning a language and studying its literature was considered a solid choice of degree, but now there's a perception that they might be a bit of a waste of time.


Difficulties in expanding language provision

7 December 2012 (The Herald)

Expanding the study of languages at Scottish universities is proving difficult to achieve, a report by funding chiefs says.


Annual Canning House Essay Competition in Spanish and Portuguese

27 November 2012 (ALL)

Every year, Canning House runs an essay prize competition challenging language students from all over the UK to submit an essay which best displays their linguistic flair and capacity for free expression in their second language(s). The topic for discussion changes from year to year. This year the essay (of 750-1000 words in Spanish or Portuguese) is on the topic "What particular contribution does Latin America or Iberia make to the modern world?" Students of Spanish or Portuguese aged 17-19 are eligible, with prizes of £500, £200 and £100. Deadline: 31 January 2013. Further details are on the Canning House website.


Free courses – now that's a language students understand

27 November 2012 (The Guardian)

Languages may be in decline at A-level and degree; but more young people are taking classes in their spare time – especially if they don't have to pay.


Related Links

University students: How to learn a language for free (The Guardian, 27 November 2012).
See what's on offer at your university and find alternative ways to brush up on a foreign language.

GCU and OU partnership provides free language lessons for staff

20 November 2012 (Open University)

In a unique partnership arrangement with the Open University (OU), Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have provided their postgraduate students and their staff with the opportunity to study an OU language module in French, German, Spanish or Chinese. 82 GCU students and staff began beginners’ language modules in October, and more will sign up for higher level language modules starting in February. The face-to-face element of the OU tuition programme is being delivered on GCU’s Glasgow campus at times that fit with GCU’s timetable.

Glasgow Caledonian University places importance on the fact that language competence enhances employability and international mobility and values the Open University’s proven track record in language teaching.


Modern languages lost for words over low intake

15 November 2012 (THE)

Two UK language departments may be forced to close their degree programmes because they recruited too few students for 2012-13, a lecturers' association has claimed.


The joys of being bilingual

8 November 2012 (The Independent)

Learning another language has many benefits apart from aiding research.


Baroness Coussins speaks about MFL and Erasmus scheme in House of Lords

12th October 2012 (LLAS news blog)

My Lords, I shall focus on what the report says about student mobility in relation to the Erasmus scheme and the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages.


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