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25 September 2006

More young people to study languages

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has today announced a 4.5 million programme to encourage the take-up of language courses in England. The announcement is being made to coincide with European Day of Languages (note 1).

Under the programme, a number of regional networks will be established in which higher education institutions will work together, and with schools and colleges, to enthuse people about studying languages. National consortia will be set up to promote translation and interpreting as careers; and research projects will be commissioned to help universities develop programmes in community languages (note 2) and enterprise.

The programme will run for four years from 2006-07 to 2009-10. It will be led by the UK Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), hosted by the University of Southampton; in a partnership with the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) and CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

The programme, Routes into Languages, aims to increase the take-up of language courses in higher education by encouraging more young people to continue studying languages at school and college and then at university, especially those from social groups currently under-represented in language study. A key feature is to provide the secondary, FE and HE education sectors with the resources to work together to promote language study. It will also raise awareness of the role of languages in HE as a driver of national economic and civic regeneration.

Funded activities may include: undergraduate ambassadors, e mentor schemes, language graduates talking about their experiences to students in schools and colleges, summer schools for non-Western European languages, and taster days.

One strand will investigate how best to ensure a lasting legacy for the London Olympics, in terms of promoting languages, culture and internationalisation. This will draw on the experiences of previous host nations. It will look at the role universities and colleges have in preparing communities for the Olympics and in harnessing the event to promote interest in schools.

The decision to launch Routes into Languages stems from the recognition by HEFCE that language skills are of crucial strategic importance to the UK. It follows a number of reports, showing that the study of languages has suffered a serious decline in recent years; and responds to both HEFCE's recent review of strategically important subjects and the Government's National Languages Strategy. Research by the DfES to inform the strategy showed that over the four years from 1998-99 to 2001-02, the number of UK students taking language courses at English universities fell by 15 per cent at a time when overall student numbers were expanding.

Professor Mike Kelly (LLAS) said:

'This will give a real impetus to language take-up and will combine the efforts of people from schools, colleges and universities to reverse the recent decline of language learning in the English education system.'

Professor Roger Woods (UCML) said:

'This important programme recognises that languages are key to this country's cultural, economic and political future. It will give language teachers at all levels the resources to get this message across. This is a good day for languages.'

Isabella Moore (CILT) said:

'This is a significant step forward in collaboration to bring our young people's capability in other languages up to the level of their counterparts in other European countries, with whom they will be competing for jobs in the global economy. '

For further information, contact:

LLAS: Liz Hudswell, tel 023 8059 5407, email or Sarah Watts, (Media Relations, University of Southampton) 023 8059 3807

UCML: Roger Woods,

CILT: Tamzin Caffrey, Press and PR Manager, CILT, tel 020 7379 5101 ext 243, e-mail


1.   The European Day of Languages (EDL), a Council of Europe initiative, is held annually on the 26 September to celebrate language and cultural diversity. CILT, the National Centre for Languages co-ordinates the initiative in the UK. See

2.   Community languages are considered to be languages in the UK other than the official languages of the state (ie, other than English in all parts of the UK and other than Welsh in Wales.