£3.1 million to boost student demand for modern foreign language courses

21 May 2013

HEFCE has announced an additional £3.1 million to support a new programme of activity which will encourage more young people of all backgrounds to study languages at university.

From August 2013, a consortium led by the University of Southampton will deliver a three-year programme which builds upon the achievements of the Routes into Languages activities [Note 1] by stimulating new ideas and partnerships to address the challenges arising from reforms in schools and higher education.

The new programme will encourage greater collaboration between universities, schools and employers, with the aim of raising aspirations and attainment of students in secondary schools and higher education. Activities will include events, the appointing of student ambassadors and sustained interventions such as programmes of languages in context and a national language-related Spelling Bee competition. There will also be a focus on increasing participation in work and study abroad, and promoting career opportunities and employability for language students. 

Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:

'Modern language skills are highly prized by employers. This additional funding will help thousands of prospective students learn more about the opportunities available, to gain a competitive edge in a global economy.'

Chris Millward, HEFCE Associate Director, said:

‘We are very pleased to continue our support for this important programme to raise demand from young people to study modern foreign languages. Employers have consistently highlighted the importance of languages and intercultural skills within a globalised labour force. The new programme’s activities will complement our recent funding settlement for the year abroad by promoting language-based studies, and study and work abroad, to students in all disciplines’.

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

‘I am delighted that we shall be able to build on the remarkable achievements of Routes in promoting the study of languages. The HEFCE investment will facilitate a unique programme of collaboration between more than 60 universities across England, working with hundreds of schools and thousands of students. The new programme, co-ordinated by the team at the University of Southampton, will make a real impact on the take-up of languages and of opportunities to work and study abroad’.

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

‘HEFCE’s initiative underlines the enormous importance of language study in this country, and UCML’s members enthusiastically welcome this renewed support. University language departments are totally committed to championing language learning in schools, to maximising outward mobility and to increasing the take-up of languages by students in all disciplines. We are renewing language curricula and expanding access to provide graduates with the full range of capabilities which the job market demands. HEFCE’s backing helps us enormously in achieving these goals – this is a great day for languages’.

HEFCE is continuing to support modern foreign languages within its programme of support for strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS) [Note 2]. Following advice from the SIVS Advisory Group [note 3], HEFCE is considering how collaborative provision may sustain the modern foreign language supply in higher education, despite the continued decline in applications to modern foreign language degree courses.


  1. Since 2006 HEFCE has invested £7.4 million in demand-raising activity through the Routes into Languages programme as part of its wider support for modern foreign languages as a strategically important and vulnerable subject (SIVS). It is led by the UK Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies based at the University of Southampton, in partnership with the University Council of Modern Languages.

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

    Further information about the Routes into Languages programme is available. 

  2. An evaluation of the Routes into Languages programme undertaken in 2011 concluded that the programme has made good progress against its aims, particularly in terms of increasing participation, raising the profile of languages and establishing partnerships and collaboration within the higher education sector and between higher education and schools. A wider evaluation of the SIVS programme commissioned in 2010 concluded that ‘the SIVS programme has cemented the importance of the SIVS subjects and [modern foreign languages] in particular’ and that the benefits and learning from the demand-raising interventions (which included the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programme in addition to Routes into Languages) ‘represent value for money’ (‘Evaluation of HEFCE’s programme of support for Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects: A report to HEFCE by Curtis and Cartwright Consulting’, paragraphs 2.8.2 and 7.2.5).
  3. In January 2012 the HEFCE Board agreed a new policy approach to SIVS. Support will be continued for the relevant areas of science, technology, engineering, maths, modern foreign languages and quantitative social science, but HEFCE will seek more widely to identify and, where necessary, respond to risks to subject provision, while taking the government’s desire for greater dynamism within the higher education system into account.

    Further information about HEFCE’s work on SIVS is available.

  4. HEFCE’s SIVS advisory group reviews data and information relating to the sustainability of subjects, and provides advice and recommendations to the HEFCE Board regarding the identification, monitoring and support of SIVS.

    Further information about the SIVS advisory group, including its current membership, is available.

  5. A circular letter setting out the finance arrangements for Erasmus and other student mobility years abroad from 2013-14 has been published by HEFCE.

Page last updated 22 May 2013

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