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University supports call for better foreign language skills for the UK

Published: 16 July 2014
Professor Mike Kelly

The University of Southampton is one of over 50 leading organisations backing a group of MPs and Peers calling for all political parties to make a General Election manifesto commitment to improve the nation's language skills.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages (APPG) has launched its own Manifesto for Languages, in order to tackle what it describes as a “need for a national recovery programme”. According to the APPG, the country needs better foreign language skills in the UK for our education and skills, the economy, international engagement, defence, security and community relations.

Among the policies being sought by the APPG are:

  • A commitment to transform the reputation of UK citizens as poor linguists
  • High quality language learning for all children throughout the UK from age 7
  • A goal for every child to have a high quality language qualification by the end of secondary education
  • Active encouragement for business and employers to get involved in tackling the crisis through a tax break for companies investing in language training
  • A commitment to maintaining and developing UK expertise in modern languages and cultures in university language departments


The initiative is supported by leading businesses, organisations and universities, including HSBC, UBS, the British Chambers of Commerce, the British Academy, the British Council, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

Director of the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies and Head of Modern Languages at the University of Southampton Professor Mike Kelly comments: “Languages are not well supported in the UK education system and A-level numbers are in crisis, with entries for French and German dropping by 10 per cent in a single year. Since 2000, 44 universities have closed their language degrees.

“It is vital we address this problem to stop our young people from further falling behind their peers in Europe and around the world – in turn affecting our economy and business opportunities.”

The APPG has gathered evidence of the impact of poor language skills on the UK’s economy and standing in the world, with businesses struggling to fill posts and losing out on export opportunities.

Baroness Coussins, Chair of the APPG on Modern Languages says: “The UK economy is already losing around £50 billion a year in lost contracts because of a lack of language skills in the workforce. And we aren’t just talking about high flyers: in 2011 over 27 per cent of admin and clerical jobs went unfilled because of the languages deficit.”

The Manifesto for Languages will be available for anyone to download from 14 July on the APPG’s website: http://blog.britishcouncil.org/appg-modernlanguages

Ends

Modern Languages at Southampton

 

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