There have been 2 interesting reports with implications for languages over the last week. The Eurobarometer Survey – Youth on the Move and the HEFCE evaluation of support for strategically important and vulnerable subjects.
1 Flash Eurobarometer Survey: Youth on the Move. Analytical Report- May 2011
This is a fascinating report about young people’s attitudes to vocational education, higher education and work and study abroad across Europe. Encouragingly, the survey indicates that most young people regard both vocational and higher education as worthwhile. Just over half of those surveyed suggested that the main reason for going to university was to improve job prospects. The UK and Ireland were found to have the highest proportion of young people motivated by employability concerns and my guess is that this finding will come as no surprise to academics at UK universities.
Over half of young people who participated in the survey also indicated that they would be willing to study or work abroad for a period, which seems to be another encouraging finding. The most significant benefits of spending time abroad were considered to be improved foreign language skills and increased cultural awareness. Although UK respondents acknowledged greater awareness of culture as a benefit, they were among the least likely to believe that foreign language skills would improve as a result of spending time abroad. This seems rather strange given the reputation of UK citizens when it comes to foreign language skills but it may reflect a possible tendency amongst UK participants to view Anglophone countries as their likely destinations.
The survey reported that the most significant barrier to studying and working abroad was lack of money. Additional barriers for UK respondents were family commitments and lack of interest in travel.
The findings of this report will undoubtedly be of interest to anyone in higher education who is involved in persuading students to go abroad.
2 Evaluation of HEFCE’s programme of support for Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects – A report to HEFCE by Curtis + Cartwright Consulting – May 2011
This report is an evaluation of HEFCE’s initiatives to support strategically important and vulnerable subjects, notably STEM subjects and languages.
Initiatives to support languages have principally been the Routes into Languages project www.routes.ac.uk which is a partnership of universities working together with schools and colleges in their regions to increase uptake in languages and the language-based area studies centres (LBAS for short), which have provided intensive language training for postgraduate researchers www.ahrc.ac.uk/FundingOpportunities/Pages/LBASInitiative.aspx.
The evaluation found that HEFCE’s support for SIVs was absolutely crucial and that it represented good value for money. The partnership working in languages that has developed as a result of both the Routes into Languages and LBAS projects was highly commended in the report. As I have been involved in Routes into Languages myself as a member both of the project steering group and the resource development team based at the University of Southampton, I hope that HEFCE will continue to provide some support in languages as we go through into the uncharted territory of the new fees regime.