The British Academy and UCML are releasing a new report examining granular trends in language learning and provision at UK universities. The new report is available here.

The new report examines recent UCAS data on language learning at a microscopic level, providing original insights on individual languages, shifts in the way languages are studied in combination with other subjects, and regional trends.

Growing regional disparities and long-term shifts in how modern languages are studied in combination with other subjects offer a complex picture of language learning and provision at UK universities.

The report finds that:

  • There has been a significant decrease in language learning over the past decade amongst those studying undergraduate degrees solely focussed on languages
  • The picture for those studying languages combined with a social science or with arts/humanities subjects is more mixed. While these subject combinations show more stability, there are still some decreases in numbers over the last ten years
  • There is considerable variation in language learning by UK region, which threatens the emergence of ‘cold spots’ – areas where language courses do not exist. Language learning at post-92 universities has all but disappeared in some regions, which has implications for access to language studies and government attempts to address regional inequalities
  • The North West of England is the only region to experience overall growth in the number of acceptances on language courses over the last decade. This is largely driven by an increase in students studying languages with a social science.

Professor Emma Cayley, Chair of UCML, said:

“We were delighted to work with the British Academy on this second Granular Trends report, and hope that it will prove useful to language-providers in HE among other groups, helping to shape and strengthen the study of languages and cultures across the UK.”

Professor Neil Kenny FBA, Lead Fellow for Languages at the British Academy, said:

“’Languages Learning in Higher Education: Granular Trends’ is an enlightening read for anyone interested in the state of language learning and provision at UK universities. The report’s findings reveal a range of interesting short and long-term trends that can help policymakers and a wider audience formulate a clearer picture of the landscape and respond effectively.”

The initial Granular Trends report, covering the period 2012-2018, was released in July 2021 as a collaboration between the British Academy and UCML.

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