Languages degrees in decline

Credit: Cyril Plapied

Credit: Cyril Plapied

UK universites are shifting away from teaching modern European languages, according to recent figures.

The number of universities offering single or joint honours in languages has declined by 40 per cent since 1998, with the decrease becoming more dramatic in recent years. The majority of institutions cutting language courses are outside the Russell Group, meaning there is less choice available to students wanting to study German, Spanish, French or Italian.

The number of universities offering German degrees has halved, while there are 40 per cent fewer institutions at which to study French since 1998. Since 2007, the number of universities offering Spanish has decreased by over a third

Of the Russell Group universities, only 12 offer single honours degrees in all four languages. York is not one of them, offering single languages only in conjunction with Linguistics or another course such as History or Philosophy. The data used in this study has been taken from an analysis of UCAS course listings for 1998, 2007 and the forthcoming 2014-15 entry.

The decline in languages courses has been linked to a drop in the number of students taking modern foreign languages at A-level. It has not been mandatory to take a language at GCSE since 2004, and so fewer students are carrying on with learning foreign languages at a higher level.
However, 2013 saw the highest number of language GCSEs since 2008, and degree courses which involving a language and another subject are thought to be holding steady.

At the University of York, only 35 students were admitted to languages courses in the 2010-11 academic year. This jumped sharply to 54 in 2011-12, and has held steady at 52 admissions for 2012-13. Figures for 2013-14 were not available.

Sources from universities across the country also claim that extra-curricular language modules and courses are increasing in popularity, though there are not comparative figures.

The University of York’s Languages for All programme demonstrates this, with many classes having waiting lists.

One second year Languages student told Nouse “It’s nice to see that York are bucking the trend. Languages are not only a great subject to study, they make you more employable and they allow you to travel with ease. Plus you can chat people up in French.”

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