Some reasons for the decline in numbers of MFL students at degree level

Catherine Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The last decade has seen declining numbers of students studying modern foreign languages at degree level, and university language departments are experiencing serious falls in recruitment (CILT, 2000). This inquiry, conducted during The European Year of Languages (2001) and using predominantly qualitative research methods, aimed to provide some initial data on why students are not studying for MFL degrees. Data were collected in five stages involving research interviews (both group and individual) and a small-scale questionnaire from the following populations: selected university undergraduates; selected sixth-formers in both a state-sector and a private-sector school; two heads of modern languages in the school sector; two modern language programme leaders in the university sector. Whilst any conclusions drawn from this study are not generalisable, two key factors emerged from the students' responses. These were a general climate of negativity surrounding perceptions of (degree-level) modern foreign language study, and a negative A level experience. Four broad themes emerged from the interviews with staff members. These were: the teaching of modern foreign languages in secondary (and primary) schools; a general ‘climate of negativity’ pervading wider society; vocational concerns on the part of students; and professional roles and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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