Back row: Peter Howarth (Leeds University) and Nick Bryne (London School of Economics)
Front row: Jonathan Lippman (University of Exeter), Professor Michael Worton (University College London) and Jocelyn Wyburd (Manchester University)

Languages skills needed to secure graduate jobs

As new research exposes a chronic shortage of teenagers leaving school with Modern Foreign Language skills, a conference highlighting the importance of language proficiency for graduate jobs was hosted by the University of Exeter.

The Association of University Language Centres Annual Conference brought together key staff from Language Centres across the UK. The National Centre for Languages research found that languages are being squeezed out of timetables, and that only a third of state comprehensives entered 50 per cent or more of their pupils for a Modern Foreign Language GCSE. In comparison, languages are compulsory in more than eight out of 10 private schools up to the age of 16.

This leaves many at a disadvantage in the competition for graduate jobs. A recent survey found that nearly three quarters of UK employers said they were looking for conversational language skills when they recruit new staff.

Keynote speaker Professor Michael Worton (Vice-Provost, University College London) spoke about his recent Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) commissioned ‘Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England’.  The report focussed on a number of recommendations to help ensure the long-term sustainability and vitality of languages provision in higher education. He highlighted the fact that intercultural awareness and global citizenship will become ever more important and stressed the key role of languages in achieving this.

Professor Worton said: “It is clear that inter-cultural competence and inter-lingual competence will be essential graduate skills in the 21st century.”

Jonathan Lippman, Director of the Foreign Language Centre at the University of Exeter, said: “We were delighted to host such an important event in the languages calendar and welcomed Professor Worton’s findings. We work very closely with our colleagues in the Department of Modern Languages to deliver a wide range of language options. We are seeing increasing demand from students for Foreign Language Centre courses, as well as extremely buoyant recruitment numbers for language degrees.”

He added, ‘All Exeter undergraduates have the opportunity to take language modules and to have their language skills recognised in their degree titles under the new “with proficiency in language” initiative.’

Date: 2 February 2010

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