HEFCE Review of Modern Languages in Higher Education

News summary

The review of languages in higher education in England led by Professor Michael Worton will be discussed by the strategically important subjects advisory group on 16th October 2009.

20 October 2009: HEFCE review of languages in HE published

Review of modern foreign languages: joint response by HEFCE and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The HEFCE Board on 27 November considered a review of modern foreign languages in English higher education (HE). The review, commissioned by HEFCE and undertaken by Professor Michael Worton, Vice-Provost of University College London, drew on a range of data to make recommendations that aim to assure the long-term sustainability and vitality of modern foreign languages (MFL) provision in HE. A dissemination event is scheduled for 1 December in London. This event will provide the languages community with the opportunity to discuss the report's recommendations.

Both the HEFCE Board and the Minister for Higher Education, David Lammy, thanked Michael Worton for his considered and thoughtful review. They agreed that the decline in MFL learning in England is a cause of real concern which, if not arrested, will have a significant impact on the UK economy, and the ability of companies to operate competitively in a global environment.

The majority of the recommendations are addressed to higher education institutions and the languages community, but there are specific recommendations for HEFCE and Government. The report argues that now is the moment to develop a clear and compelling identity for MFL in an increasingly competitive HE context. David Lammy has offered to chair a forum to formulate clear, coherent messages about languages, which is one of the recommendations in the report.

HEFCE will evaluate the success of existing investments in languages - 'Routes into Languages' and 'Language-based Area Studies' - before considering further funding. An investigation of the costs associated with languages using non-Roman script will be taken forward as part of the work to inform the review of teaching funding.

John Selby, HEFCE Director for Education and Participation, said:

'This is a first rate report, which articulates the strategic importance of languages. It is also a snapshot of the health of the discipline.

'The report highlights HEFCE's and others' longstanding investment in this area - including the demand-raising activities of Routes into Languages, support for rare languages via the minority subjects initiative and support for research in strategically important regions through the programme supporting Language-based Area Studies research and training centres . The review also commends HEFCE's role as a block grant funder of higher education. This gives universities and colleges the freedom to invest in areas of strategic importance, such as languages.'

HEFCE and other agencies will invest an additional £41.5 million in languages in the period 2005 to 2012 over and above the provision of block grant.

Minister of State for Higher Education, David Lammy, said:

'I welcome Professor Worton's contribution to the debate on the health of Modern Foreign Languages, which is of real importance to the UK economy, our future prosperity and our international reputation.

'My Department has been looking closely at the report's findings and is working with DCSF and HEFCE to take them forward. I particularly welcome the recommendation to set up a forum to promote MFL through a coherent communications strategy, which I would be happy to chair.'

* 'Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England' (HEFCE 2009/41)