Higher education institutions do much to promote language learning and develop multilingualism, both in individuals and more broadly in society. As well as specific language courses, language training is made available to students from all disciplines as part of their course or as an extra-curricular activity.
Universities and colleges also play a central role in international student exchanges, which foster both language learning and greater cultural awareness. The benefits of language learning for students include both professional advantages and personal development.
The EU funds the Erasmus student exchange programme which enables universities in different countries to co-operate, boosts European mobility and improves the transparency and recognition of qualifications in the EU.
The European Commission’s “Action Plan for Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity” proposed that:
- each university should implement a coherent language policy clarifying its role in promoting language learning and linguistic diversity
- university language policies should include explicit actions to promote the national or regional language
- all students should study abroad, preferably in a foreign language, for at least one term, and should gain an accepted language qualification as part of their degree course
An EU-funded project, the “European Network for the Promotion of Language Learning Amongst all Undergraduates (ENLU)” demonstrated the need for a permanent European framework for promoting language learning amongst undergraduate students.
The HELP network (Higher Education Language Policy) is now being established under the auspices of the independent European Language Council (ELC). It will gather organisations with a stake in language learning at undergraduate level to develop co-operation and exchange initiatives.