Numbers of UK students choosing Modern Foreign Language degrees decline

UK students choosing to take a language degree has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. A report by the the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) found the number of students being accepted onto full-time modern language courses slumped by 22% between the academic years 2010-11 and 2012-13.

While there was a strong 8% recovery in the numbers of students entering full-time undergraduate courses in 2013-14, full-time undergraduate modern foreign language entrant numbers are in decline. However, modern foreign languages were the most popular subjects in 2012-13 for UK students pursuing their studies in France and Germany.

Fewer UK students are choosing to take Modern foreign languages

Fewer UK students are choosing to take Modern foreign languages

Declines in full-time first degree entrants is also seen in joint honours degrees, where a modern foreign language is coupled with an area of study that is not a modern foreign language. Numbers of entrants to such courses fell by 22% between 2010-11 and 2012-13, continuing earlier declines.

Despite this decline, at secondary level the government says it is keen to promote modern languages as vital subjects. The Independent reports on a shake-up by Education Secretary Michael Gove, that will see students studying modern languages encouraged to speak the language more with all questions will be posed in the foreign language they are studying. More weight will be given to pupils’ speaking skills , with 25 per cent of GCSE marks awarded to that, and 25 per cent awarded for listening and responding.

Why modern foreign language enrolments at University is an interesting question. With global borders evermore open, language skills are increasingly vital. However, there is some evidence that employability merely arising from a, say, a French degree is not as strong a non-languagecourse and developing a strong fluency in a second language via other routes.

Is the decline in modern languages as degree level subjects worrying or should more emphasis by placing on languages at primary or second level so more young people have strong language skills at 18?

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