There has been a continual drop in the number of students from Wales taking language courses at university, according to admissions service UCAS. The numbers of students enrolling on foreign language courses was down by a third at the same time last year, latest figures show.
Cardiff University has been working with schools to encourage more pupils to take up subjects such as French. An academic at the university said that there was “a worrying pattern” of schools reducing language options.
The UCAS figures indicate that only 80 students from Wales secured places on European language and literature courses – down from 120 this time last year. In 2009, 180 places had been taken up by students from Wales.
Professor of French at Cardiff University, Claire Gorrara, said many factors had influenced a downward trend over many years, including a greater emphasis in schools on maths and science subjects, and a wider sense that “English is sufficient to progress in the world”.
She said: “We’re seeing a worrying pattern at present of schools reducing their offer – so maybe having had two foreign languages they’re reducing down to one and of course that’s impacting on young people’s perceptions of the value of the subject.
“We have some schools where the senior leadership team require a certain number of students for it to run and in some schools there is no modern foreign language class at GCSE.”
“The challenge for us is maintaining that diversity of languages and encouraging schools to invest in what may appear to them to be a subject that is an optional subject.”
Undergraduates at Cardiff University have been involved in a mentoring scheme where they talk to 13 and 14-year olds just before they take their GCSE options.
Figures show a decline in the last decade in numbers taking French and German in particular.
At A-level, entries in French and German have fallen by two thirds over the same period and Spanish by half.
By Polly Manning