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10 August 2011

Million pound boost for modern foreign languages

HEFCE has announced an additional £1.2 million to support the Routes into Languages initiative.

Routes into Languages aims to increase take up of modern foreign language courses in higher education in England, and encourage more young people of all backgrounds to study languages at university.

The Routes programme comprises nine regional consortia of universities throughout England, plus national networks for translation and interpreting and research projects.

An independent evaluation of Routes (Note 1) found that one of the programme’s key achievements has been its success in establishing partnership and collaboration within the higher education sector and between higher education institutions (HEIs) and schools.

The evaluation states that 'the extent of openness and collaboration between HEIs in each region has been remarkable' and that 'the way in which universities have learned to work with schools and adapt their methods to take account of schools' policies and preferences has been another major success' (Note 2).

The Routes programme has delivered a diverse range of activities, often taking an innovative approach to engaging school children in learning languages. The evaluation found that Routes has been successful in raising pupils' motivation and interest in languages, and therefore improving the likelihood that they will continue to study a language beyond the age of 14 (Note 3). The national networks for translation and interpreting have helped to increase the number of highly employable students in these areas (Note 4).

Routes into Languages also aims to support the role of higher education languages as a driver of national economic and civic regeneration, recognising the contribution that languages make in promoting citizenship, and in supporting the economic and commercial life of the nation.

The additional funding from HEFCE for the period to end July 2012 will allow the programme to focus on the activities that have proved to be most successful – these include Student Ambassadors, sixth-form events and focused activities such as linking languages with sport and film. The funding will also enable Routes to plan for its future sustainability in the new funding environment for higher education.

The Routes into Languages programme is led by LLAS Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies, which is based at the University of Southampton, in partnership with the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML). Since 2006 HEFCE has supported the programme (Note 5) as part of our wider support for modern foreign languages as a strategically important and vulnerable subject (SIVS, Note 6).

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'We are very pleased to continue our support for Routes into Languages. Languages are vital for the social and economic future of the country and graduates with language skills make a major contribution to the UK economy in an ever-changing global context. This additional funding demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting modern foreign languages and I hope that it will enable the Routes initiative to build on the many benefits it has brought for schools, colleges, universities and students.'

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Routes into Languages programme, said:

'I'm delighted that HEFCE has agreed to extend funding for Routes in this way. The decision will be welcomed by universities and schools across the country and confirms the recognition that languages are a matter of strategic importance. It shows a genuine commitment to supporting access to languages and will give fresh momentum to the rich array of activities planned for next year.'

Professor Jim Coleman, Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages, said:

'Through its events and activities, networks and resources, Routes into Languages has helped young people to recognise just how many doors are opened when they choose to learn languages. Recruitment to language degrees has been increasing year on year, and I think this is largely due to the imagination and enthusiasm of supporters of Routes into Languages in schools and universities. I am delighted that the programme is to continue.'


  1. 'Evaluation of Routes into Languages', SQW Consulting, published May 2011.
  2. 'Evaluation of Routes into Languages', SQW Consulting, published May 2011, page 64 paragraphs 8.11 and 8.12.
  3. 'Evaluation of Routes into Languages', SQW Consulting, published May 2011, page 63 paragraph 8.7.
  4. 'Evaluation of Routes into Languages', SQW Consulting, published May 2011, page iii paragraph 12.
  5. In September 2006 HEFCE announced a £4.5 million programme – Routes into Languages – to encourage the take-up of language courses through to higher education level in England. Additional funding of £3.5 million from what is now the Department for Education (DfE) was awarded after the Dearing Languages Review (March 2007) recommended that the original project should be extended beyond the initial pilot projects to cover all of the English regions. In January 2010 HEFCE agreed £487,000 extension funding, which included £30,000 co-funding from BIS. An interim award of £250,000 funding was awarded in January 2011, and in July 2011 HEFCE agreed a further £1.19 million funding for the period to July 2012. HEFCE has supported the project via its Strategic Development Fund (SDF).
  6. Further information about HEFCE's work on strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS) is available.