N.B. Although the Shaping the Future project is officially over, new resources linked to the Employability agenda are being added here regularly. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the latest publications and resources.

Below you will find resources which will help you to engage with the “employability” agenda in Higher Education by:

  • interpreting the concept of “employability” with reference to degrees in languages
  • identifying the skills and attributes of a languages graduate
  • suggesting ways to develop the employability and entrepreneurship skills of students
  • advising on how to develop supportive relationships with agencies, both internal and external
    to the university
  • providing qualitative and quantitative data to make the strategic case for the “employability”
    of languages graduates
  • listing and glossing a guide to seminal reports on employability and entrepreneurship by key
    stakeholders and annotating a list of relevant readings


Developing student employability and entrepreneurship: an annotated bibliography

This annotated bibliography provides a short list of readings which will be helpful to both new and experienced academics in developing the employability and entrepreneurship skills of their students. Most of the readings are available online.

Student employability: A summary of recent reports from stakeholders

This document identifies and summarises recent reports with relevance to student employability. These include government commissioned reports and reports from key stakeholders in higher education including university mission groups and employers organisations.

Skills and attributes of the Languages Graduate

A table of skills and attributes of a languages graduate, useful to departments to promote languages degrees and to students for job applications.

Understanding employability: careers resources for undergraduates

Designed for personal tutors to use with their undergraduate tutees, this is a companion piece to the UCFL ‘Shaping the Future’ document, ‘Understanding employability: a guide for personal tutors.’

Understanding employability: a guide for personal tutors

This document provides information and advice for personal tutors in university Modern Languages departments preparing for employability/careers-based discussions with their final year undergraduate tutees.

Role of an Employability Officer in an academic department

An example description of a role of an Employability Officer or Careers Liaison Officer within a languages department.

Service Level Agreements – how language departments and the careers service can work in partnership

An example of how university language departments and the careers service can work in partnership to develop the employability of their students.

Part 1: Expanding Horizons – Connecting with Professional Organisations and External Partners (Toolkit)

Established relationships with external partners and stakeholders are vital for higher education language departments. This toolkit contains information, guidance and case studies to help universities raise the profile of languages to prospective and current students, leadership teams and policy-makers by developing mutually beneficial relationships with external partners. It contains ideas for a systematic approach and practical steps to strengthen relations with a range of external partners. Key sections focus on engaging professional and teaching organisations; employers and businesses; local, national and international stakeholders; and communication partners.

Part 2: Expanding Horizons – Connecting with Professional Organisations and External Partners (Resouce pack)

Established relationships with external partners and stakeholders are vital for higher education language departments. This Resource Pack is part of a toolkit containing information, guidance and case studies to help universities raise the profile of languages to prospective and current students, leadership teams and policy-makers by developing mutually beneficial relationships with external partners.

Part 1: Labour Market Intelligence on Languages and Intercultural Skills in Higher Education

The following report presents the results of research into the labour market for graduates with languages and intercultural skills.

Working collaboratively with non-language departments

These documents provide, firstly, an indication of the broad range of collaboration typically found in HEIs, followed by two more detailed case studies of languages for the aviation industry and medicine, respectively.

Student Ambassador 1: Role

The outreach model as described here extends the Student Ambassador role from simple advocacy for a subject area, to one that enhances the profile of the student and thereby their university.

Student Ambassador 2: Training

This document reminds us of key points in Student Ambassador training as taken from the model of the extended Student Ambassador role developed at Newcastle University through the Routes into Languages North East project.

Student Ambassador 3: Employability

Beat the Rat Race was originally conceived as part of Student Ambassador appraisal and exit training. It is an employability event focused on networking, professional reflection, and skills development. This document will provide a toolkit for the organisation of such an event in any HEI.

The economic case for language learning and the role of employer engagement

This research report (which was published by CfBT after the end of the Shaping the Future project, but is of direct relevance to us) raises awareness of the economic cost to the UK of its comparative weakness in language learning. Poor language competency is undermining the UK’s competitiveness in international trade resulting in a loss of an estimated £7.3 billion per annum. Levels of language study among young people are rapidly falling and yet there is a high employer demand for modern foreign language competency. This report calls for employer support in demonstrating the workplace relevance of languages and highlights the influence that employers can have on young people’s perceptions and decisions.

COSTING BABEL 2012: The Contribution of Language Skills to Exporting and Productivity

James Foreman-Peck; published by Cardiff Business School.

Republished/updated 2012; originally published 2007.

CBI Education Skills Survey 2011

This survey of major employers included levels of dissatisfaction in both school leaver and graduate skills: top of the dissatisfaction list for both is language skills. Lots of other useful information

Global Graduates into Global Leaders

Report by the Council for Industry and Higher Education explores some of the hot topics emerging from UK recruiters, whilst building upon the findings from previous research on the internationalisation of higher education. It focuses on what employers and universities understand to be global competency, how such competencies can be nurtured through collaborative or individual endeavours.

Exporting is good for Britain and exporters need skills

2012 report from British Chambers of Commerce. Key quote: “The extent of the language deficit in the UK is truly serious: up to 96% of respondents had no foreign language ability for the markets they served, and the largest language deficits are for the fastest-developing markets. For example, only 0.4% of business owners surveyed reported that they were able to speak Russian or Chinese well enough to conduct business deals in their buyers’ language. Addressing the gaps in commercial exporting skills – including language skills – must be a priority to support the growth of Britain’s export sector.”

CBI Education and Skills Survey 2012: Learning to Grow: what employers need from Education and Skills

The latest CBI survey (June 2012) is worth looking at for the levels of need for language skills and dissatisfaction with these.

Languages and Entrepreneurship: A Guide for Students

Report looking at language and intercultural skills and experience abroad have inspired and enabled graduates to set up their own businesses. Full of advice for business careers in general and on starting up businesses. By Lizzie Fane, published by the Higher Education Academy

CBI Education and Skills Survey 2013

The latest CBI/Pearson report “Changing Pace”, yet again shows that graduate language skills are those with which employers are least satisfied. Of concern also is that degrees in languages are only ‘preferred’ by 1% of employers, who seem to be increasingly favouring STEM subjects. Care should be taken in interpreting this, as it does not mean that languages are not valued at all, but it could be misread.  French (49%) and German (45% are the leading languages in demand, but those geared to business in China feature increasingly prominently (of those valuing staff with foreign language skills, 28% value Mandarin and 16% Cantonese).

British Chambers of Commerce survey 2013 factsheet (June 2013)

Entitled: Exporting is good for Britain but KNOWLEDGE GAPS AND LANGUAGE SKILLS HOLD BACK EXPORTERS, this factsheet calls, amongst other things, for languages to become a core requirement of the national curriculum through to AS level for the sake of the British exporting sector.

Graduates in the UK Labour Market 2013

The Office for National Statistics has published a report on lifelong graduate employment in the UK, drawing on Labour Force Survey data. Graduates are on average more likely to be employed than non-graduates, and to earn a higher salary. The same is true of Russell Group graduates vs. the rest of the sector. Language graduates come 15th/17 disciplines in terms of employment rates (87%, median 89%, range 84%-95%) but on average annual pay 6th of 17 (£30,420, median £30,004, range £21,944 – £45,604). Our message still needs to be that a language degree leads to a wider range of satisfying and international careers than any other discipline.

British Academy June 2013: Talk the Talk – A guide to maximising your prospects using languages

Talk the Talk brings the excitement of languages to life and demonstrates how perseverance with their study can opendoors to an array of careers and life experiences.

Learning a language is a long-term investment and a great educational asset. Students who learn languages gain a plethora of other practical and personal skills, boosting their employability and career prospects. In collaboration with the European Commission, the Academy has published Talk the Talk as a guide for current undergraduate students and school pupils to illustrate the value of language learning.

British Academy November 2013: Lost for Words: The Need for Languages in UK Diplomacy and Security

The British Academy’s policy report, Lost for Words, is an inquiry into the Government’s current language capacity in the fields of diplomacy, international relations and security.

Drawing on extensive desk research and informal interviews with a range of stakeholders, including government departments and agencies, higher education institutions (HEIs), language training providers, and interested third party experts, the report makes the case for stronger leadership and significant incentives by government to recognise and support language learning.

CBI Education and Skills Survey 2014: Gateway to Growth

See particularly section 7 and pages 52-54 on languages for business. A key quote is:

While a focus on foreign language skills is not seen by many as a top priority area for action in education, only around one third of businesses (35%) have no need at all for foreign language skills in their employees – and this is likely to decrease as we shift towards a more export-led economy.

Born Global: Summary of Interim Findings, Oct 2014

Born Global is a major British Academy research project. The interim report was published ijn 2014, the final report is due to be published in Autumn 2015.

The research aims to develop a deeper understanding of how language is used in the workplace for different purposes, by employees of different levels of skill and accountability. It will explore employers’ attitudes towards language skills and their expectations of language competence and use.

CBI Education and Skills Survey 2015: Inspiring Growth

See particularly Chapter 5 and strong messages on the need for languages for business on pages 41-42. Of note is that: in comparison to previous years the proportion of businesses saying they have no
need at all for foreign language skills among their employees has dropped sharply (to 23%) – 
in last year’s report it was 35%!

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