November 2012 | ref: Circular letter 27/2012
Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal
1. We wish to invite higher education institutions (HEIs) in England with provision in modern foreign languages (MFL) to submit proposals to deliver a programme of student demand-raising activity, with the aim of sustaining modern foreign language education in England. Proposals should be submitted by noon on Wednesday 9 January 2013.
2. The successful institution will be expected to deliver the programme for a period of three years from 1 August 2013 to 31 July 2016, to run consecutively after the existing programme.
3. The remit of this call for proposals extends to all modern languages. It is not restricted to modern European languages (for example, those warranting separate panels in previous Research Assessment Exercises).
4. As part of HEFCE’s support for MFL as a Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subject (SIVS), we have supported the Routes into Languages (Routes) project to increase the take-up of modern language degree programmes in England. The current round of funding for the Routes project will conclude in July 2013.
5. An evaluation of the Routes programme, undertaken by SQW and published in April 2011, concluded that Routes has made good progress against its aims, particularly in terms of increasing participation, raising the profile of languages and establishing partnerships and collaboration both within the higher education (HE) sector and between HE and schools. In 2009, Professor Michael Worton’s ‘Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England’ (HEFCE 2009/41) noted that: ‘there is strong evidence that the nine regional consortia of Routes into Languages are making significant contributions to interest in and study of languages. This regional focus is particularly significant and has resulted in some innovative and potentially sustainable inter-sectoral and cross-sectoral partnerships’ (paragraph 38).
6. HEFCE continues to support MFL within our new policy approach to SIVS. Our support to date includes:
Details of HEFCE’s support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), modern foreign languages, and quantitative social science can be found at www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/crosscutting/sivs/.
7. We are launching an open competition for a new programme of student demand-raising activity, which will seek to build on the Routes programme to deliver our core aim of increasing and diversifying MFL participation in HE in England. A key issue will be that the new programme should promote the principle identified in Michael Worton’s 2009 review, which is that the MFL community should seek to secure its own future, rather than rely on government funding.
8. When considering how best to continue our support for MFL, we have taken into account the broader policy context.
9. The impact of policy and trends in primary and secondary schools can be felt in HEIs, firstly in terms of the range and volume of potential applicants and of their preparedness for university study, and secondly with regard to teacher supply. The latter can produce a virtuous circle effect, as well-qualified teachers inspire new generations of students. There are signs that the English Baccalaureate (introduced in 2011) could drive an increased uptake in languages at Key Stage 4. However, this will take some time to take effect. The Government also proposes the statutory inclusion of languages at Key Stage 2, and is considering further reforms to GCSEs and to A‑levels. The new programme should complement and build on these developments.
10. In 2012 the Government and HEFCE agreed an approach to fees and grants that seeks to keep in balance the supply and demand for exchange programmes. Additionally, we suggested that future demand-raising activity in MFL should seek to promote outward mobility by students in all disciplines, given the current net in-flow of students within the Erasmus programme and the widespread recognition of the employability benefits of international experience and language proficiency.
11. The advent of higher fees, coupled with the longer study period generally required for MFL, may mean that MFL programmes present higher barriers than usual to students from low participation backgrounds. The new programme should complement and capitalise on the new outreach activities HEIs are undertaking in the context of their access obligations within the new fees regime.
12. Several studies have examined demand from employers for MFL skills, including a December 2011 Education and Employers Taskforce report, ‘The Economic Case for Language Learning and the role of Employer Engagement’. They illustrate that inadequacy in language proficiency is seen as a problem for the UK’s national economy and international position, and that UK graduates with foreign language skills continue to be sought after by employers. The Confederation of British Industry Education and Skills Survey 2012 reports that 21 per cent of companies are concerned that weaknesses in foreign language proficiency are losing them business, and that among these, 52 per cent are looking to recruit staff with the appropriate skills. The British Academy has also recently highlighted the centrality of modern language studies and language proficiency to a competitive economy, stressing that language scholarship is a long-term investment for the individual, for research, for competitiveness and for society at large. These arguments are made in two reports: ‘Language Matters’ (2009) and ‘Language Matters More and More’ (2011).
13. In addition to language skills, a joint British Academy position statement with the University Council for Modern Languages (UCML), ‘Valuing the Year Abroad’, states that employers are also seeking cultural fluency among their employees to help in building relations with overseas contacts. The new programme should demonstrate how engagement with employers will serve to stimulate demand for MFL study programmes and promote the employability of MFL graduates.
14. Crucial to the development of this new programme is the need to build on the achievements of Routes and the expertise and materials the project has generated, while securing a new impetus to address the imperatives arising from the HE reforms and the reforms in schools. The programme will need to ensure that it commands the confidence of those involved with these activities. In addition, the programme should encourage the participation of HEIs delivering MFL who are not currently engaged with demand-raising activities.
15. This new programme should aim to maintain the sustainability of MFL within the broader context of HE, encouraging the MFL community to secure its own future, taking into account the new landscape for student fees and finance in HE. There are a number of elements that we would expect to see reflected in the proposals submitted to us. Each proposal should:
16. The programme should be overseen by a steering group appointed by the lead HEI and approved by HEFCE. The steering group should consist of an independent chair, members from other HEIs, professional bodies (including UCML) and stakeholders (including HEFCE). The steering group should advise on strategy and direction, but the lead HEI will be the body accountable to HEFCE.
17. HEFCE will licence the successful HEI to use the ‘Routes into Languages’ brand name and logo on behalf of and for the benefit of the HE sector.
18. Institutions wishing to discuss this call for proposals should contact Linda Allebon (tel 0117 931 7237, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
19. Institutions should submit their proposals to us by noon on Wednesday 9 January 2013. Please e-mail proposals to Linda Allebon at email@example.com.
20. Submitted proposals will be assessed against the criteria outlined in paragraph 15 by a panel consisting of representatives from the Department for Education, the British Academy, the modern languages community, HEFCE and industry. Shortlisted institutions will then be contacted to discuss their proposal or invited to interview by the end of January 2013. Interviews will be held in London on Thursday 7 February 2013.
21. We expect to make an announcement of the successful proposal on the HEFCE web-site by the end of February 2013.
Sir Alan Langlands
|Enquiries should be directed to:||Linda Allebon, tel 0117 931 7237, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Page last updated 7 November 2012