University aims to improve graduate employability with language courses

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All open language programmes are to be relaunched by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with a focus on increasing graduate employability. From autumn 2009 the former Languages for All courses will be under review by FASS, meaning that no language courses outside of degree schemes will be available until 2010-11.

Following a review into the Department for Continuing Education (DCE), which took place in 2008, the responsibility for LfA courses was moved to FASS. Tony McEnery, Dean of FASS, plans to relaunch the programme in autumn 2010 to run alongside the existing Part I Beginners and Advanced courses. He and Graham Bartram, Head of the Department for European Languages and Culture (DELC), aim to increase graduate employability and student engagement with the programme. “We’ve got a mass of students with no certified language qualification,” said McEnery. “Access to languages is attractive to employers.” Approximately 90% of students from DELC are in graduate-level employment within six months of graduating – the highest of any department in the university – and 74% of employers prefer applicants who speak a foreign language.

This shift in focus is supported by LUSU’s new Vice President for Academic Affairs, Danny Ovens. “I’m all for the idea of a greater focus on graduate employability, especially considering the current climate,” said Ovens. “It will indeed look more attractive to employers, certainly in business orientated arenas with extra reliance on international marketing on and off the continent.”

The review process has already begun, with the creation of focus groups in each of the university’s four faculties. In October a questionnaire will be sent to all students, asking what they want from language courses. McEnery is keen that as many students as possible complete the questionnaire. “We want to intensify our engagement with the people who are going to take the courses,” he said. “We honestly want to hear what students have to say – if they tell us nothing it would be a tragedy.”

By undertaking this extensive review process, McEnery hopes to improve where he feels Languages for All failed. Around 250 students and staff members enrol on LfA courses each autumn; McEnery believes this could be much higher. “If [LfA provided what students want] there would be a much higher participation rate. We are not content with the level of engagement.”

Nigel McEwen, Development Officer for Languages for DCE, agreed that McEnery’s wish to engage with students was “admirable – the more who study languages the better.” However, he defended the participation rates in LfA courses, saying that 250 students and staff was a “significant number”, and criticised the decision to run no courses in the academic year 2009-10. “The LfA programme is successful, it’s popular with students, it’s one of the few things in DCE that makes a profit,” he said. “My only sadness is that they are not running a course which takes the minimum of effort to put on, which regrettably does disadvantage 250 students who would have taken it.”

Ovens agreed, saying “I do think it puts students at a disadvantage from all the benefits, I think that we’re missing a trick here by not having any non-degree additional language courses available for the coming year. If this was something a

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