Where next for modern languages? From patterns in recruitment to curriculum reform, six academics examine some of the challenges 

It is no secret that every area of the humanities is experiencing significant change. Questions concerning the coherence, identity, and purpose of modern languages are certainly the subject of a great deal of debate within the education sector.

This edition of Talking Humanities sets out to examine some of the issues that are of most pressing concern to those working in the sector. In the opening post (We have to deploy modern languages in confronting our challenges), Professors Charles Burdett and Claire Gorrara talk about the nature of the challenges that the disciplinary area faces – from patterns in recruitment to reform of the curriculum – and how it is attempting to address those challenges. In the posts that follow, contributors reflect on different elements of the subject area and how it is pursuing reform.

 

The long read

We have to deploy modern languages in confronting our challenges

Modern languages in the UK is at a crucial stage in its development, write Institute of Modern Languages Research director Professor Charles Burdett and Professor Claire Gorrara, dean of research and innovation at Cardiff University. If the discipline is to ‘thrive and survive’, how can it address the urgent challenges that we face?

There are, as is well known within the sector, causes for concern. This is exemplified by the decline in applications for university degrees in modern languages over the last decades. Yet, while recruitment figures at undergraduate level have fallen, research by the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) demonstrates that this is not uniform across the sector.

Rather, it might be more accurate to report that modern languages degrees are changing, diversifying, to cater for a changing student population and its priorities and preferences (see Report on Granular Trends in Modern Languages in UCAS Admissions Data, 2012–18, July 2021).

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