The place of Languages in the curriculum (6 Dec 2004)

Date: 6 December, 2004
Location: Room B202, 2nd floor, Russell Square Campus, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies,
Event type: Seminar

Programme | Event report

Past event summary

This event focused on opportunities to promote the importance of languages in the curriculum and reported on the findings of a series of recent research projects.


10.30 - 11.00 Coffee and registration
11.00 - 11.30 What does "international" in HE course titles actually mean?
Hilary Footitt, former Chair of UCML
11.30 - 12.00 Languages Work
Teresa Tinsley, CILT, the National Centre for Languages
12.00 - 12.15 Coffee
12.15 - 12.45 Reasons for language learning: an IWLP perspective
Nick Byrne, London School of Economics
12.45 - 13.15 Languages and the development of key skills for employment
Dawn Leggott, Jane Stapleford, Leeds Metropolitan University
13.15 - 14.15 Lunch
14.15 - 14.30 Languages and employability: an overview of statistical data
Sarah Joy, CILT, the National Centre for Languages
14.30 - 15.00 700 Reasons for Studying Languages: Report on Subject Centre Rationales Project
Angela Gallagher, LLAS Subject Centre
15.00 - 15.30 Coffee

Event report: The place of Languages in the curriculum

by Amanda Hilmarsson-Dunn

Very well organised...
a very coherent
balanced programme

- Seminar attendee

What does international' in HE course titles actually mean?

Hilary Footitt, former Chair of UCML

This talk outlined the results of a DfES funded project in which courses with the words international' or global' or world' in the titles were examined for their content. These courses were designed to prepare students to work internationally, yet scarcely mentioned the cultural aspects of operating internationally, let alone the possibility of learning a language. There were exceptions to this rule but this was unusual. The paradox, the speaker pointed out, was that while languages are in crisis there is growing curricular importance in international business, marketing, financial management, etc. The words, languages' and international' appear to inhabit different domains and it is very important to establish a link between them.

It was reported that the DfES have just launched their international strategy for education ( which prepares learners to learn in a global context by promoting global citizenship in the curriculum, ..' among other things.

Differences in policy between HE institutions were outlined. There are four broad levels, ranging from those that had good recruitment of overseas students and EFL provision through those that had international staff and an international curriculum, to a holistic policy whereby international' is part of the whole identity of the university and its courses.

The aim next year should be to benchmark the term international' and show that it cannot be divorced from languages. This would be in time for the UK presidency of the EU and G8 next year.

Languages Work

Teresa Tinsley, CILT, The National Centre for Languages

The results of a three-year project undertaken by CILT, The National Centre for Languages (and supported by the DfES) were presented. Languages Work ( is an information service and a set of products, some free, some costed. The aim is to raise awareness of the value of languages in the curriculum and beyond. Research carried out during the project with school students in year 9 into reasons for not studying a language showed that they were not aware of the opportunities offered by languages and tended to base their judgements only on quality of lessons.

The rationale for the project therefore is to promote the learning of languages before the 13/14 year olds make their GCSE choices. The materials produced can be used in schools by careers advisors, language teachers etc. They include a collection of case studies (which demonstrate how languages can be used in employment) to be put at the disposal of careers advisors; activity sheets for the pupils to show how languages link in with the wider curriculum, and a questionnaire for parents. There is also a handbook to go in careers and reference libraries. Their website describes these resources in detail: Teresa reported that so far the feedback on the materials had been good, that there was a great demand for the free materials and that there had been considerable interest in the website.

An IWLP perspective on language learning

Nick Byrne, London School of Economics

It was suggested that The Association of University Language Centres (AULC) ( is going to become more key' in providing opportunities for language learning. The landscape is changing and there has been an increase in the number of students studying a language as part of an IWLP. It was pointed out that while there are figures for the numbers of students studying a language as part of a degree course, there are no indications of how many study languages as outside options, the majority of which are bona fide all year courses. Therefore, Nick has recently produced figures for those students studying a language/s, a) as credited b) as a non-credited option. These figures show that the numbers are growing mostly in the non-credited area. Out of 55,000 studying languages in 41 institutions over half study them as a credited part of their degree, while the rest choose to learn (and sometimes pay to learn) a language through Language Centres rather than Faculties. These figures show that language study is thriving, not on its way out, contrary to belief. It was stressed that these figures are meaningful and must count. For more details dowload: AULC's newsletter (page 8) (

The speaker went on to describe a European initiative to promote language learning among all undergraduates (ENLU) ( He heads Task Group 2 of ENLU and aims to provide that organisation with focused quantitative data on the number of undergraduates learning languages and the range of languages being learnt. In the case of LSE he said, it is becoming clear that where there are choices between UK students and international students for positions in the job market, decisions finally come down on the side of those with languages i.e. it is the UK students who don't get the jobs. More provision will be required from Language Centres to fill the requirements for value-added extra programmes.

Languages and the development of key skills for employment

Dawn Leggott and Jane Stapleford, Leeds Metropolitan University

The speakers reported on the results of a five-year research study in which they looked at the skills language students developed during the course of their degree and explored the level of student awareness of these skills. These skills included critical thinking, time management, problem solving, and self-responsibility among others. A sample of eight students every year out of a cohort of 35 was investigated through interviews and questionnaires.

The results showed that less than half the students thought that these skills would be relevant to their work. They were not aware that they were developing these skills, which the University's School of Languages had integrated into the curriculum. It was only in the workplace after University that they realised they actually had developed relevant skills - although they confessed to the year abroad contributing to cross-cultural awareness. In contrast, employers have been found to rate these skills very highly.

The researchers concluded that more needs to be done to raise students' awareness of how these skills can contribute to their employability. This could be done through portfolios which enable them to reflect on their experience and discover how these skills can benefit them in the workplace.

For more information download: Languages and the development of key skills for employability (Powerpoint, 160Kb)

Languages and employability: an overview of statistical data

Sarah Joy, CILT, The National Centre for Languages

Sarah presented data from the HE Statistical Agency (HESA) ( which show the destinations of language graduates in triple subject/combined honours or single honours degrees. A four-page questionnaire posted to all language graduates six months after graduation asked graduates to define their job profile, description of duties etc. There is to be a follow-up after another year.

There was an 82% response rate in 2003 from 9780 graduates in single/joint honours. About half of first-degree undergraduates are studying joint honours courses. The most common combinations are languages with business studies, followed by linguistics, classics, social sciences, history and philosophy and law.

The data showed that figures for unemployment among graduates (1 st and 2 nd degrees) from the UK were 5.1% for languages as opposed to 5.5% for English and 9.2% for mathematics, though unemployment for males in languages was higher at 7.3% than for females at 4.9%. The figures showed lower unemployment rates for language graduates than the national average.

Data showed a variety of destinations for language graduates, ranging from management to administration. There seems to be higher employment rates for joint honours graduates though, especially those with law and business, levelling out for those with linguistics and classics, but higher unemployment among those with history, philosophy and social sciences.

As the data is currently being processed there is no information yet as to whether the languages themselves are used in the jobs described.

For more information download:

700 Reasons for studying languages: report on Subject Centre project

Angela Gallagher-Brett, LLAS Subject Centre

Angela presented the findings of the Subject Centre's 700 Reasons project, which has resulted in the creation of a database of more than 700 reasons for studying languages. This will be available soon on the Subject Centre website. The reasons were collected from a variety of sources, including academic literature and language learners in the 16 to 19 and university sectors. The learners who participated in the study contributed a wide range of different reasons for language learning. The majority were found to be motivated by reasons of personal satisfaction such as enjoyment, fun and interest.

It is hoped that the 700 reasons database will assist language educators in promoting language study.

For more details download: 700 reasons for studying languages (Powerpoint, 774Kb)