Dramatic fall in language degrees pose fears as Erasmus replacement focus on UK trade agenda

Universities in the UK are witnessing a dramatic fall in students taking a language degree and it could accelerate if the government fails to fund the year abroad in Europe after next year.

Students who study modern languages are expected to spend their third year studying or working abroad to pass their degree and for many, this is the main attraction of many language courses.

A language postgraduate student, Fiona Clayton said: “I feel bad for those who had the ambition to study a language and are having to let go of that decision because our government has not clarified things well enough for students to take an early decision.”

As the UK is no longer taking part in the EU Erasmus scheme, this is fuelling fears for the future for many language courses. Admissions in the 10 years to 2020 were are already down by 38 per cent according to Ucas. 

Sumaya Mohamad who is looking to study French at university next September said she feels “hesitant” as she is unsure whether she will be guaranteed a year abroad with financial support from the institution.

Many British students across all subjects used Erasmus to travel to universities in Europe for three to 12 months during their degree.

Universities fear the current uncertainty could cause more serious damage.

The government’s replacement programme, the Turing scheme, has a new emphasis on “worldwide” rather than European travel by including countries such as Australia and America and will run from September 2021 to August 2022.

In the past, eligible students qualified for extra funding from the Erasmus+ grant provided by the European Commission.

Some prestigious universities are proposing that they will privately fund the year in Europe for their language students if the government refuses to do so, however there are concerns that less wealthy institutions may drop language courses completely.

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