Foreign language slump at Canterbury university

The number of students taking a foreign language at Canterbury Christ Church has plummeted by nearly 80% in seven years, it has been revealed in a Freedom of Information Request.

Figures include all modules that are taking at undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as modules taken alongside a course as a combined hours degree.

A spokesperson for the university, said: “Recent reports indicate a decline in the number of students taking A levels in languages which inevitably means there has been a decline in students taking foreign languages at university.

“Canterbury Christ Church University encourages students to take modules in French, Spanish, Italian, German or Mandarin Chinese, either for credit within their studies or as additional modules.

“This is promoted at recruitment events, on social media and through publicity around the university at the start of each academic year.”

Over 150 students chose to study a foreign language in 2010, before figures fell over 53% in just two years to 73 in 2012, and again in 2013.

Languages are becoming less popular at Canterbury Christ Church. Copyright: N Chadwick

They then plunged massively again in 2014 to just 44 students, before some smaller fallings led to them dropping to an all-time low of 34 in 2017/18.

Paloma Bax is the senior lecturer for language studies at the university, and she believes that there are a number of reasons why numbers are continuing to fall, and what can be done to increase them too.

She said: “The Contemporary Language Studies Programme relies completely in recruitment from all other programmes – if student numbers go down in general, our numbers decrease accordingly.

“More and more people in the world also speak English at a high level so speaking other languages is not perceived as useful, because in our globalised world English is the lingua franca.”

“Financial constrains for the department, which does not receive any student’s fees for this programme, translate in to too many cancellations and ‘loss’ students at levels 5 and 6.

“Studying languages is also deemed difficult and unsatisfactory, as it takes a long time to master a language and students want to be fluent in a year,

“More and more people in the world also speak English at a high level so speaking other languages is not perceived as useful, because in our globalised world English is the lingua franca.”

She continued: “Increased financial support to guarantee running modules at high levels and keeping student satisfaction high could be a way of increasing numbers at the university.”

Figures for 2018-19 are due to be released at the start of the next academic year in October.