Languages: Higher Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to help halt the decline in people studying modern languages at university.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

The institutional autonomy of English Higher Education (HE) providers is protected by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. This includes autonomy over which courses to offer and which students to admit. The role of government is to create the right conditions and incentives so that HE providers are able to help respond to our economic and strategic priorities. We also want to enable students to make informed choices, and for student demand to influence the decisions providers make on what to offer.

In England, we agree that learning foreign language is important and believe that building the skills and demand for degree courses starts in schools. That is why we are taking a number of steps to support schools in encouraging uptake of language qualifications.

This includes:

  • Introducing the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure in 2010 to halt the decline in the number of pupils taking GCSEs in the core academic subjects. The reformed national curriculum now makes it compulsory for pupils in maintained schools to be taught a foreign language in key stage 2.
  • Promoting the value of language qualifications to students who are choosing their GCSEs and to their parents. We recently published and promoted a guidance leaflet for parents, which explains why studying a language, as part of the EBacc, broadens opportunities in both education and employment. Additionally, in February we drew attention to the benefits of studying a language among 13-14 year olds through a social media campaign.
  • Supporting schools to increase languages take up through the £10 million Mandarin Excellence Programme and through a £4.8 million modern foreign languages pedagogy pilot programme, which will improve uptake and attainment in languages at key stages 3 to 4, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

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