The University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) has partnered with, the leading social learning platform, to find ways of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the progress of UK-based undergraduate students of Modern Languages whose year abroad has been disrupted, paused or halted by the pandemic. The project has emerged from UCML’s Year Abroad Special Interest Group, formed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and which currently comprises representatives from Modern Languages departments at 54 UK universities.

The UCML-FutureLearn partnership comprises a package of three short courses, or MOOCs (massive open online courses), that address intercultural exchange from a range of angles, made available by FutureLearn to the UK Modern Languages community at a significant discount. FutureLearn recognises the difficult situation of the UK’s modern linguists and has generously sought to work with UCML to assist year abroad students whose travel has been restricted to further develop their intercultural skills.

The three MOOCs offered as part of the package are Cardiff University’s ‘Working with Translation’, the University of Southampton and the British Council’s ‘Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching’, and the University of Leeds’s ‘Introduction to Intercultural Studies: Language and Culture’. All materials from the 3 MOOCs will be available exclusively to registered students until the end of June 2021. Cardiff University has generously agreed to manage the delivery of the three MOOCs on behalf of the Modern Languages community, and all three will be facilitated by colleagues at Cardiff, Southampton, the British Council, and Leeds.

The MOOCs are being run as ‘closed rooms’, open only to year abroad students, for whom they are free of charge. The cost has been borne by UCML, with contributions from Modern Languages departments and Study Abroad Offices across the U.K. All students who complete the course requirements will receive certification.

UCML is extremely grateful to all project partners, who have generously given of their time and expertise to come together at this challenging time to support the Modern Languages sector.

Professor Claire Gorrara, Chair of UCML and Dean for Research and Innovation for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cardiff University, said: ‘We are truly delighted to play a leading role from Cardiff in supporting the thousands of language students whose plans for residency abroad are being disrupted this year. As this collaborative partnership demonstrates, working across the university sector and with our colleagues in FutureLearn, we have been able to make a real difference to talented UK student linguists who can now benefit from sector-leading MOOCs, such as ‘Working with Translation’ created at Cardiff. We are proud to support this vibrant and active student community’.

Professor Alex Neill, Vice-President, Education at the University of Southampton said: ‘I’m delighted to see so many Modern Languages students from across the UK have signed up for the University of Southampton/British Council/FutureLearn open online course (MOOC) Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching. The 2020-21 academic year has been particularly difficult for Modern Languages and other students who have seen their study abroad plans disrupted by the COVID crisis and the University of Southampton is pleased to be able to support them through offering the MOOC as part of a sector-wide response coordinated by the University Council of Modern Languages’.

Professor Peter Jimack, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education at the University of Leeds said: ‘The University of Leeds has been very alert to the plight of students locally and across the UK whose hopes of total cultural and linguistic immersion in their chosen language or languages have been disappointed by the travel restrictions enforced by the pandemic. So we are delighted and proud to share the MOOC developed at Leeds by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, ‘Introduction to Intercultural Studies: Language and Culture’, with these students from across the sector. We would like to express our thanks to colleagues at UCML and the Digital Education Service at Leeds for their expertise and support in making this happen’.

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