Languages marketing and recruitment

Date: 15 March, 2002
Location: British Academy, London
Event type: Seminar

Past event summary

Low recruitment to language degree programmes has led to much discussion of new approaches to marketing. This event provided an opportunity to discuss marketing techniques and to hear a number of case studies. The marketing pack which the Subject Centre is developing in conjunction with a number of embassies and cultural institutes was showcased.

The day included a number of presentations and case studies on the following themes. The speakers were drawn from HEIs across the country.

  1. market research
  2. developing a marketing strategy
  3. marketing activities


09.45 Registration
10.00 Michael Kelly, Subject Centre
Thinking about marketing: segmenting the market and analysing your range of products
10.30 Anne Slater, University of Hertfordshire
Interactive session: Languages in the UK Higher Education system: let's adapt, evolve or perish! Could becoming more client-orientated be the answer to our woes?
11.10 Coffee
11.30 Annie Bannerman, Aston University
Exploring attitudes to language learning, particularly amongst young Asian women
11.50 Elspeth Jones, Leeds Metropolitan University
Developing a departmental strategy
12.20 Colin Riordan, University of Newcastle
Creating a marketing campaign for German
12.40 Keith Marshall, Bangor University
Making the new AS work for HE
13.10 Lunch
14.00 Vicky Wright, Subject Centre
A presentation of the Subject Centre Languages Marketing Pack
14.20 Chris Smith, Napier University
A language school perspective: product evolution, and market gaps
14.40 Murray Hill, Robert Gordon University
Internal and external marketing activities, what is the difference?
  Tea and Coffee available
15.00 Henriette Harnisch, Brasshouse Language Centre
Marketing minority languages
15.20 Clare Mar Molinero, University of Southampton
Starting from scratch: developing a range of marketing activities
15.40 Ian Kemble, University of Portsmouth
Getting them young. Taster days for 11-13 year olds
16.00 Concluding discussions
16.30 Close

Event report

by Paula Davis

Low recruitment to language degree programmes has led to much discussion of new approaches to marketing. This event provided an opportunity to discuss marketing techniques and to hear a number of case studies. The marketing pack, which the Subject Centre has developed in conjunction with a number of embassies and cultural institutes, was also showcased.

The programme included a number of presentations and case studies on the following themes:

  1. finding and defining your market
  2. developing a strategy
  3. marketing activities

This report summarises the presentations given by the speakers:

  • Michael Kelly, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton
  • Anne Slater, University of Hertfordshire
  • Annie Bannerman, Aston University
  • Colin Riordon, University of Newcastle
  • Keith Marshall, Bangor University
  • Elspeth Jones, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Vicky Wright, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton
  • Chris Smith, Napier University
  • Murray Hill, Robert Gordon University
  • Ian Kemble, University of Portsmouth


Thinking about marketing: segmenting the market and analysing your range of products

Professor Michael Kelly, Director of the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton

* Downloadable PowerPoint presentation available – please contact the Subject Centre

This presentation looked at understanding our market in terms of who our current students are, what is changing and where to concentrate our efforts. It examined strategies for development which include analysing existing courses and identifying different directions to move in.

The first stage in understanding the market is to analyse our existing student body which is a doppelgänger for the future student body. This analysis should include:

  • Geography – there is a need to take account of the fact that the numbers of local, EU and overseas students are increasing;
  • Age – we know that our current market includes school-leavers and mature students but there is a need for a more fine-grained analysis of age profile;
  • Educational background – where do our students come from, i.e. a particular school or particular type of school? Once identified, we can target these schools with publicity;
  • Class – there is strong encouragement to aim at increasing widening participation to include students from other social classes than was the norm in previous times;
  • Gender – the majority of language students are women (75-80%). We need to consider whether we want to redress the gender balance or provide courses that are more appealing to women.
  • Ethnicity.

The second stage in understanding the market is to look at what is changing:

  • Internationally, e.g. globalisation, English as a “world language”. We need to apply this to our own practice;
  • In Europe – in the UK there is little awareness of the Bologna Process, the Single Higher Education Area and the European Research Area. (see section 4.9 of this file) Our European partners are competing with us in our markets but this also provides recruitment opportunities, e.g. to attract EU students to study in the UK;
  • In the UK – there are major initiatives with significant funding in the areas of widening participation and employability.

The next stage is to decide how we can make courses more attractive for our existing students by employing the following common marketing strategies:

  • Segmenting – analyse the student profile and identify particular types/sets of students;
  • Focusing – make courses more appealing to an identified market segment by linking programmes more explicitly to student profiles. This involves sacrificing market segments you are unlikely to appeal to;
  • Differentiating – compare programmes with other institutions and make your programme distinctive.

In designing a strategy for development, we first need to analyse our existing courses and then customise our offerings. The accompanying PowerPoint presentation includes a model for analysing products in relation to the market. The final slide “Where to go next?” highlights that a strategy aimed at designing a new course for a new market would be extremely high risk – we need to focus on either a new product OR a new market.

Languages in the UK Higher Education system: let's adapt, evolve or perish! Could becoming more client-orientated be the answer to our woes?

Anne Slater, University of Hertfordshire

* Downloadable PowerPoint presentation available – please contact the Subject Centre

This presentation addressed the following issues: What does marketing orientation mean in our HE context? Why do we need it to be successful? Are our existing and potential clients who we think they are? What do they want? What influences their choices? What are the factors beyond our control and those within our control? Research carried out into the perceived lack of demand for languages amongst British undergraduates shows that, contrary to popular belief, many UK students who enter higher education say that it would be an asset for them to acquire foreign language skills and/or undertake a placement abroad. Yet, somehow, this recognition does not translate into 'purchase of the product'. In other words,
there are what is known as 'barriers to purchase'. What can we do to change this? Could becoming more client-orientated be the answer? In this interactive session, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire aimed at making them apply to their own context the marketing principles described in the presentation. The intention was to make participants more 'market aware': no room here for recruitment difficulties being blamed exclusively on factors beyond our control!

Anne Slater’s research in this area is primarily focused on foreign languages for non-specialists in the higher education system. However her findings can also be applied to specialist foreign language degree programmes. Anne began by posing the question: are the current recruitment difficulties due to lack of demand or lack of marketing communication? Research findings suggest that both factors play a part so effective marketing will work.

A successful marketing strategy involves considering the needs of three target groups:

  1. The consumers, i.e. students. What is their perception of the product offered? What are their reasons for not buying or not renewing their purchase?
  2. The customers, i.e. other departments, central services, external clients, staff, vice-chancellors, etc. What is their perception of the product/service offered? What influences their decision to buy?
  3. The competition, i.e. other subjects; other universities; students’ need to work to earn money = less time for study; English is the “international language”.

What is the future for languages? Our purpose is to provide a service to clients but fewer consumers = less business and less business = fewer jobs. How do we get more business? By becoming more marketing oriented. Marketing orientation is about putting customers and consumers first. If we fail to provide what they want, they will find an alternative product. Successful organisations are marketing orientated whereas unsuccessful organisations are product or process orientated.

Marketing is a management process which anticipates, identifies and satisfies customers’ latent needs in a way that is profitable to all parties. There are three stages in successful marketing:

  • To anticipate by carrying out market research (not through wild guesses);
  • To identify, i.e. find out what customers want and what they are willing to pay (in terms of time);
  • To satisfy, i.e. provide the product that corresponds to what the consumer wants.

The Marketing Mix involves identifying tactics that will help implement your strategy. All individual elements must be blended strategically. These elements are known as the 7Ps – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Physical Evidence, Processes. Some of these are examined below.

Product or service?

  • What do students gain by learning a language?
  • Do the courses we offer provide what students need and want?
  • Does the product fit the university range of products?
  • Does everyone understand the benefits of language learning, e.g. transferable skills?
  • A good product is a product that people want to buy.
  • All products have a life cycle.


  • How much is a language worth to a student?
  • Is 25% time investment too high?
  • How does it compare with other modules?
  • Does it offer good value to everyone?


  • How do customers hear about us?
  • Is information readily available?
  • What image do we project? Do we need to change our image?
  • There are 13 ways of promoting products – advertising is just one of these.

One of the key points of Anne’s presentation was to highlight the unfortunate fact that when people talk about marketing, what they mean is advertising or selling. They only focus on one or two aspects of the marketing process. The way forward is to analyse where we are now, where we want to be and how we can get there. Many uncontrollable factors affect demand but there are controllable factors. If we fail to use them to our advantage, we will perish.

Exploring attitudes to language learning, particularly amongst young Asian women

Annie Bannerman, Aston University

Using Widening Participation funds, the School of Languages & European Studies at Aston University has undertaken research into attitudes to European language learning amongst young Asian women. Pupils in ten West Midlands schools were asked about early bilingualism in the home, their experience of language acquisition in school, and their academic and career ambitions. Aston graduates and undergraduates were interviewed about their choice of degree courses with a language component. The finding that the study of languages was not widely perceived as a route to a successful career has led to the development of a web-site, currently being trialled in schools with pupils in Years 9 and 10, which uses case studies from the research project as role models within the context of information about the opportunities offered by and the benefits of the Year Abroad.

One of the main aims of the research project which began in January 2001 was to ascertain whether the compulsory year abroad element of degree courses could be a deterrent to some young Asian women. The sample comprised 200 Asian female students, volunteers from Years 9 to 12, mainly of Indian, Pakistani and Bengali ethnicity. Discussions and questionnaires revealed that between them, they spoke 25 different languages; 85% of them were learning French, 32% Spanish and 31% German. The results of the questionnaire showed that 92% of the sample were intending to continue education post-GCSE, but less than 10% had as yet a clear idea of “A” level choices. 78% of the sample said that they would like to work abroad and over 50% would like to work in a language other than English. However, when girls were asked to identify careers where languages might be useful, teaching, translation and being an airhostess were among the very few jobs identified.

In discussing parental attitudes to the Year Abroad, two-thirds of the sample expected considerable anxiety. The girls expressed enjoyment of the process of learning languages and they had a very positive attitude to multilingualism. However, very few of them identified further study of languages as being a useful career qualification, other than as a subsidiary to other subjects.

A limited telephone survey of sixth form college staff highlighted a fairly bleak picture in modern languages departments in that sector, and a marked lack of contact between institutions.

Undoubtedly there is outstandingly good practice in schools, with great enthusiasm amongst the best, but there are also many depressed modern language teachers.

The research also included extended interviews with 17 Aston undergraduates and graduates (about half of whom were studying international business with languages). Questions covered language learning experiences as well as problems and strategies for dealing with parental and community pressure. Many Asian parents, like their wider communities, share the traditional attitude that mathematics and sciences, leading to professional and vocational qualifications, are the only subjects that count. The students interviewed possessed a strong determination to act as role models by stressing the benefits of languages in the workplace.

Initially, the research project planned to produce a video or CD-ROM which would target Years 9, 10 and 11. However, a website entitled “Languages for Life” has now been built which is being trialled in schools among small groups of gifted linguists. The website has a particular focus on the Year Abroad and on student profiles (which initial feedback indicates to be much appreciated). The website went public on 29 April 2002.


Creating a marketing campaign for German

Colin Riordan, University of Newcastle

The target audience for the marketing campaign was identified as school pupils in their early-to-mid teens who may have the option of taking German. A marketing and design company co-headed by a German national was engaged to devise a campaign to alter the image of German among people of this age-group, with a brief to keep costs as low as possible. The result was a poster and postcard campaign which attempts to redefine stereotypical negative views of German and to reinforce positive images in a way accessible and attractive to young people.

The campaign brief was to help recruitment for all German departments. The following problems were identified: a shortage of German teachers (the campaign could not address this issue); not many pupils are opting for German; there is a huge drop out after GCSE and again after “A” level. The aim of the campaign was to increase the numbers taking up and carrying on with German. Surveys were carried out with British and German schoolchildren and undergraduates studying German. In response to the question “Why do German?” reasons cited included economic reasons, job, culture and it’s fun! Reasons for not doing German included it’s hard, the people are unfriendly, they don’t have a sense of humour and it’s boring! The campaign set out to reinforce the positive. There was a need for something cheap that would appeal to the target age group and turn stereotypes of German, Germany and the Germans to some advantage. 50,000 (text only) postcards and 20,000 posters were produced with tag lines which countered stereotypes through reinforced positive stereotypes or gentle self-mockery, e.g. BEACH TOWELS. Is there more to the Germans than you think? Find out for yourself, learn German and get there first.” The posters encourage people to pick up the postcards and there is a list of positive reasons for learning German on the back of each postcard.

The campaign (financed by DAAD) stated in October 2001 and the posters and postcards are currently being sent to schools. (for samples of the material, see the German materials in The Languages Box.

Making the new AS work for HE

Keith Marshall, Bangor University

(See section 4.3 for data gathered by Keith Marshall)

The introduction of the AS level presents Modern Languages with a new means of persuading more pupils to continue with languages beyond GCSE. Properly exploited, it has the potential to help schools and FE colleges to recruit pupils for A2 languages and to help universities to recruit students for degrees including languages. But for this potential to be fulfilled, we need comprehensive cooperation across the secondary/FE/HE divide, especially if foreign languages are to become optional subjects from age 14 as suggested in a recent Government Green paper.

Keith began his presentation by talking about the ongoing “recruitment disaster.” While student numbers across the whole of higher education are increasing, specialist modern foreign language numbers are down. Curriculum 2000 (the introduction of AS levels) appeared to offer a means of countering this decline. In a 1998 survey of 3000 Year 12 pupils, many said that if they could do an extra subject at AS level, they would choose a modern foreign language. Curriculum 2000 offers pupils the opportunity to study an additional subject post-GCSE but although there has been an increase in the number of pupils studying languages at AS level, there has been no increase in the numbers continuing their studies to A2 level.

What should we in higher education do?

  • create degree pathways for students with AS languages;
  • persuade admissions tutors in other subjects to give full credit for AS points;
  • get out to sixth form colleges and higher education fairs to make the case for languages;
  • invite sixth formers and teachers into our higher education departments (creating what the UCML refers to as “language villages”).

The fault line in modern foreign languages take-up is not the passage from secondary education to higher education. Statistics show that the rise in languages with non-language subjects has almost exactly compensated for the fall in single honours languages. We have been inventive in offering courses to those coming to higher education with “A” levels in languages but this is a limited market. The main fault line in modern foreign languages take-up is at the first point of choice in secondary school. Therefore, it is essential to make the case for studying languages much earlier, i.e. in Year 11 to GCSE pupils choosing AS level subjects and in Year 9 if languages become optional at GCSE (as has always been the case in Wales).

How do we make the case in earlier years? Use videos, posters, websites, students, graduates, and employers. University prospectuses and leaflets are not much use for schoolchildren.

Points to help make the case:

  • there are more A and B grades at AS and A-levels in modern foreign languages than virtually any other subject;
  • there are places on modern foreign language degrees for those with E as well as A grades at A2 level (remember that A level grades are not the best predictor of degree results);
  • it is easier to get into higher education to do modern foreign languages than, e.g. law or media studies;
  • rates of unemployment are lower for modern foreign language graduates than for nearly all other subjects;
  • most modern foreign language graduates go into the private sector, not teaching or translation.

To make the new AS level work for higher education modern foreign languages, it is essential to collaborate with the secondary and FE sectors and to provide input at every point of choice, i.e. Year 9, Year 11 and Year 12.

At the end of Keith’s presentation, one of the workshop participants asked whether it is possible to study AS level language ab initio? This is very unlikely due to funding issues although Mike Kelly reported that the government is considering introducing a scheme similar to Music grades so that people can start a language at various stages which would be accredited. Keith Marshall added that students would have the opportunity to study GCSE ab initio in the sixth form.

Developing a departmental strategy

Elspeth Jones, Director, Centre for Language Study, Leeds Metropolitan University

* Downloadable PowerPoint presentation available – please contact the Subject Centre

Student recruitment to language courses is no longer simply a matter of putting course details in the university's prospectus. So how can departments take a strategic approach to their marketing and school liaison activities in order to achieve positive results? This presentation drew on experience gained in giving presentations to 7,500 pupils during the Autumn term 2001. The presentation focused on lessons learned, and clips from the resulting promotional video developed by Leeds Metropolitan University were shown.

The departmental strategy at Leeds Metropolitan University was developed against a background of an originally limited range of courses and a wish not to rely on a single product. The original aim of the strategy was to diversify and the current range of courses at LMU now includes:

  • Undergraduate scheme;
  • EFL activity;
  • Business language programme;
  • Community programme (essentially evening classes);
  • Teacher education

In the present context of declining full-time applications, greater competition from other courses, an emphasis on widening participation, and increasing numbers of students living at home during their studies, LMU decided to develop an effective schools liaison strategy in the local region. The strategy would be piloted and, if effective, external funding would be sought. The strategy was in the form of a Languages Roadshow – visiting schools and finding out what they wanted. A mailshot in the form of a simple one-page questionnaire was sent to 500 schools in the local region seeking views on what the content of the Roadshow should be. There was an overwhelming response with 120 replies received within two weeks – all enthusiastic and desperate for support. Schools wanted the Roadshow to include a presentation from an independent person who could give factual information and they wanted it to contain the following messages:

  • take languages at GCSE, AS and A-level (i.e. target Years 9-13);
  • focus on employability issues for those with language skills;
  • range of jobs which need languages;
  • becoming fluent in a language is difficult but even basic skills can be useful. The cultural dimension is also important.

LMU were unable to deal with all requests in the timescale so they decided to build the key messages into a video. Following piloting in the summer of 2001, the Roadshows took place between September and December 2001. They succeeded in securing European Year of Languages funding and visited 39 schools, seeing 7500 Year 9-13 pupils, of which 7000 were in Years 9-11. Following the Roadshows, LMU were able to identify schools most likely to supply students to their courses and they have continued dialogue and visits. They have also produced and distributed A4 posters which have received positive feedback. The Roadshows provided an excellent source of information from teachers and pupils which was fed into a video (included in the Languages box) emphasising the key messages. The video (which teachers wanted to be interesting but serious) has been distributed to the 120 schools who replied to the initial questionnaire.


A presentation of the Subject Centre Languages Marketing Pack

Vicky Wright, Academic Coordinator for Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton

See CD-ROM Why Study Languages?

This session outlined the PowerPoint presentation that has been produced by the Subject Centre for use by HE staff when they visit schools and colleges. It also outlined the contents of the Languages box, which has been developed together with a number of embassies and cultural institutes. The Languages box (which is sponsored by the French Embassy) is being sent to every higher education institution in the UK.

A language school perspective: product evolution and market gaps

Chris Smith, Napier University

Chris Smith presented a case study of a language school he created in 1984, when he believed there was a market for English tuition for adults in small groups. Instead of paying for the latest in multimedia, customers were to be charged for the personal and pastoral advantages of being part of a tiny ‘clique’. Chris’s belief was based on his own experience of language learning, inevitably limited, rather than on market research. The product has essentially remained unchanged, although it took time to mature to the market. It is the delivery of the product that has evolved over the years. It has had to adapt to the increasing rigour of customer demand. The market gap it filled was originally extrinsic to the product. The label ‘EFL’ attracts a wide audience. In addition to the product’s originality as originally perceived by Chris, the client experience which the product packages will hopefully prolong its life cycle. The development of English Tutorials in Edinburgh is more about the indirect potential in a product than its mere trade description.

A key point in Chris Smith’s presentation concerned the marketing opportunity offered by EFL students. The study of one language opens the door to other languages so foreign students coming to the UK to study English should be encouraged to learn other languages too. Chris sees the way forward is to develop a partnership between the private and public sector. The private schools generally take students with a lower level of English and are uniquely capable of providing the mini-group structure which will bring language skills up to a level acceptable for university intake.

Internal and external marketing activities

Murray Hill, Robert Gordon University

* Downloadable PowerPoint presentation available – please contact the Subject Centre

This case study considered a number of internal and external partnerships, which have been instrumental in the promotion of languages, with particular reference to Scottish primary and secondary schools during EYOL 2001. It considered the notion that non-linguists are sometimes best left to do the talking (with a little help from linguists), and also examined both the role of ICT-led marketing and the link to ICT-delivery of languages in HE. Pedagogical issues were also addressed. The range of available non-linguist support which can be enlisted was noted, notably course leaders, technician staff, careers advisers and marketing lecturers, likewise the input of UK and foreign employers which can be harnessed to marketing efforts to maximise 'product placement'. The case study also pondered 'generic marketing of languages' against 'product localisation', and reviewed research and staff development opportunities for linguists. Finally, it questioned the link between local marketing initiatives and subsequent student recruitment.

The marketing alliance was set up in response to low recruitment levels and poor corporate marketing support. The marketing strategy involved convincing and working with both internal and external parties. Initially, Robert Gordon University concentrated on external marketing by targeting pupils in the last two years of secondary school. OHP presentations and course leaflets were used to convey the value of languages in career terms. The strategy has now developed to include pupils in the last two years of primary school and takes the form of Language Roadshows. The message still focuses on the value of languages in career terms but has expanded to incorporate the value of languages in social terms and an ICT integrated/interaction approach. One of the most successful ways of improving recruitment has been involving local businesses, in particular by associating languages with ICT. Following a marketing event with IBM, schools in the local area have reported a quadrupling in language take up. Timing has proved crucial, i.e. you need to target pupils before they make course choices. Robert Gordon intend to continue with these school visits; conduct virtual visits; develop an ICT interface with schools in Ayrshire and link with partner higher education institutions and employers both in the UK and abroad.

Internal marketing involves keeping languages on the agenda and keeping people informed about policy documents and national reports. This includes getting the message across to non-linguist colleagues and encouraging them to spread the word. Other strategies include writing in careers office publications and faculty newsletters, engaging in other subject area initiatives, and harnessing the ICT skills of technicians. Using ICT as much as you can is of key importance.

Getting them young. Taster days for 11-13 year olds

Ian Kemble, University of Portsmouth

This presentation sought to provide an answer to the following questions:

  • What makes for a successful taster day in pedagogical terms?
  • What administrative structure needs to be in place?
  • What is the evidence of success?

The intention behind the Taster Days at the University of Portsmouth was to fire up 11-13 year olds, and give them a positive language learning experience that would hopefully influence their GCSE choices. All sessions involved learning but included an element of fun; they all included some technology and there was some follow up. Pupils can log onto the Taster Days website and see a video of themselves. The one-hour Spanish taster sessions involved speaking, listening and singing (“Livin’ La Vida Loca!”). There was a discussion about where Spanish is spoken and pupils sent an electronic postcard. The German sessions took images of Marlene Dietrich and embedded her in Berlin. There were discussions about German history, similarities and differences and jelly bears! There was a focus on the German version of “Falling in Love Again” – the text was translated and the pupils sang.

The Taster Days (in a variety of subjects, not just languages) took place between 4th and 6th July 2001 and were organised by the Marketing Department at the University of Portsmouth. 10 schools (160 pupils) were involved. As part of the evaluation process, pupils were asked to judge which workshop they thought would be most enjoyable from the information pack (languages came 5th) and which workshops they actually enjoyed (languages came 7th). 48% of pupils said that the languages workshops were “OK”. There is a need to waken this “OK” group who would study languages in a particular context.

Closing debate

Chair: Michael Kelly, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton

The way forward

Introduction: Clare Mar Molinero, University of Southampton

Clare opened the debate by posing the question: How does one reconcile the strong desire to be collaborative with colleagues from other institutions with concern about sharing ‘trade secrets’ in an increasingly competitive market?

Mike Kelly agreed that this is an issue on a lot of people’s minds. He expressed gratitude to the speakers who had shared their strategies at the event and expressed a wish that the Subject Centres PowerPoint presentation would offer colleagues something they can customise without divulging too much. He posed the following question for debate: How far can we take the balance between cooperating with each other and sharing trade secrets? Some concerns were expressed:

“If there was a level playing field it might be easier to take this approach. We are competing within our own universities as well as outside.”

“We have to see this in view of the politics. What sort of collaboration are we talking about? We need to think about collaboration on a regional level that won’t deskill some institutions.”

However, participants were mainly positive about increased cooperation and collaboration:

“We are competing but if we increase the pool of students there will be more to go round.”

“We don’t have a problem with sharing and competition.”

“We could collaborate in school visits promoting the subject through clusters of universities all over the country. The Subject Centre could be the leading light in organising teams to go into schools. It is difficult to drop out if you’ve made a personal commitment to a team.”

“We need collaboration to keep Russian going as individually we don’t have the time. It must be all languages together.”

“In a declining market it is standard business practice to get out of it or increase the market share. Our products are different. In terms of collaboration, we can help each other by growing the market share and making the case for languages. Coincidentally, we will all benefit.”

“There is competition but we are not all in competition with each other. Businesses manage to balance collaboration and cooperation.”

“The alternative is not worth thinking about. We must stick together.”

“If each branch of McDonalds had to produce its own publicity, they wouldn’t be where they are today.”

One of the participants asked whether there is anything we can do about the Green Paper and the 14-16 issue. Mike Kelly responded that it would be useful if everyone sent a response to the Green Paper to the Department of Education and Skills. If all university departments send in their own response, that would be very helpful. We need to encourage a wider campaign, e.g. responses from local business people and local public sector bodies, and also lobby local MPs. The point was made that we all know what we don’t want to happen, but we need to be clear what we do want. Mike Kelly responded that Nuffield is sponsoring a small group to work on graded language stages. The DFES is keen on this and it could solve continuity issues enabling people to drop a first foreign language and start another one ab initio.

The question was raised: Collectively how can we promote a more positive view of languages rather than highlighting the negative and shooting ourselves in the foot in the process?

Participants commented on several initiatives, including:

  • National Languages Forum - a way of keeping in touch with people who participated in the EYOL to keep the momentum going.
  • European Awards for Languages are available for projects that go “beyond the norm”. The closing date is 15th April 2002 and people should be encouraged to apply for funding.
  • Nuffield award for someone who has done most to implement the Nuffield recommendations.

Information about these initiatives is available from CILT

One participant commented that more research is needed into the fact that failure to engage with languages is letting the country down, and that the evidence needs to be more widely publicised. Mike Kelly responded that the Department of Trade and Industry Languages Unit has been doing research in this area. A recent LNTO survey indicates that 20% of businesses are losing money because of lack of language skills.

It was suggested that a week along the lines of the “Adult Language Learning Week” should be set up, as this event had good results and high demand. Mike Kelly agreed that this was a very useful suggestion. 26th September is the European Day of Languages.

The Subject Centre might act as a clearing house for information so that the website becomes a signposting place for what already exists. If we find something that works we can send it to the Subject Centre. Vicky Wright commented on the Subject Centre’s Web Guide and Materials Bank projects which will have a marketing category. Mike added that the press had attended the day’s event and that hopefully they will pick up the marketing drive.

Anne Slater reiterated the fact that if we’re not offering our customers what they want in terms of product, we will fail: “Marketing is not just about advertising.”

We hope that we have accurately represented the speakers at the event and invite further comments. This event will be repeated in 2003.

Paula Davis
March 2002