Multilingual Universities for a Multilingual
Europe Open to the World
Conseil Européen pour les Langues /
European Language Council
European Network for the Promotion of
Language Learning Among All
Multilingual universities for a multilingual Europe open to the world
Copyright ? 2006 by the Conseil Européen pour les Langues / European Language Council (CEL/ELC)
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Multilingual universities for a multilingual Europe open to the world
The Nancy Declaration results from activities undertaken in the ENLU network project (European Network for the Promotion of Language Learning Among All Undergraduates), co-
ordinated by the CEL/ELC and carried out with the support of the Commission of the European Communities under a special Call released in July 2003. Through this Call, the Commission sought to stimulate the development of networks and associations to encourage the sharing of best practice between professionals across Europe in a number of key policy areas, among them the generalisation of language learning at first-cycle level.
The principal aim of the project was, therefore, to assess whether there is sufficient demand for this kind of network. Through desk research and surveys, among them a Europe-wide consultation carried out early in 2006, the project established that, looked at as a whole, provision needs to be improved in terms of both the number of undergraduate language learners and the range of languages offered and learnt, and of the quality of provision.
The ENLU project culminated in a major European conference held in Nancy on 7-8 April 2006, at which Commissioner Ján Figel’ expressed his support for the idea of a more
permanent trans-European network devoted to the generalisation of language learning at first-cycle level. In five thematic workshops, the 150 participants – higher education experts
and representatives of major European and national organisations, among them the Council of Europe – discussed the objectives and ways of working of the network to be created in the wake of the ENLU project. The outcomes of these discussions have been incorporated into the Nancy Declaration.
The Nancy Declaration was approved by the Advisory Board of the ENLU project and the CEL/ELC Board earlier this month. It aims to raise awareness among all stakeholders of the urgent need for a generalisation of language learning among undergraduates and of the issues that have to be addressed in this context. In particular, it takes up the challenge referred to by Commissioner Figel’ in his Nancy speech and seeks to show how the gap
between policy development at European level and at institutional level can be bridged.
In short, the Nancy Declaration provides the basis for the creation of, as well as for the activities to be undertaken by, the new network, which will go by the acronym HELP – Higher
Education Language Policy.
CEL/ELC President and
ENLU project co-ordinator
Multilingual universities for a multilingual Europe open to the world
1 European integration, and co-operation between Europe and third
countries present major challenges to universities in Europe. One of the
biggest challenges is posed by the linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe
2 The issue of languages is of direct relevance to a number of core
objectives of the Bologna Process. These include the promotion of mobility,
of the European dimension of higher education, and of graduates’
employability on the European labour market, as well as enhancing the
attractiveness of European higher education. These objectives can only be
achieved if all students irrespective of their specialisation, especially
students at undergraduate level, are given the opportunity to learn
languages, and if mobile students receive adequate linguistic support.
3 The European Commission’s Communication A New Framework Strategy
for Multilingualism rightly stresses the importance of language and
intercultural skills for the achievement of the Lisbon goals. Universitiies
must therefore play their role in enabling all graduates in Europe to
? be able to communicate in at least two languages other than their first
? know how to improve their proficiency in languages,
? have confidence, and know how to learn a new language when the need
or opportunity arises,
? have first-hand experience in working and learning in, and collaborating
with other countries, and
? be familiar with other cultures and intercultural skills.
II. A FRAMEWORK FOR UNIVERSITY LANGUAGE POLICY
4 The Conseil Européen pour les Langues / European Language Council
(CEL/ELC) has maintained for a long time that a university-wide language
policy can play a key role in enhancing the profile, quality, and
sustainability of a languages-for-all-undergraduates programme. It is an
encouraging sign of the reforms underway in European higher education
that a substantial number of universities have now developed their own
specific language policies or at least have come to regard the development
and implementation of such policies as desirable.
5 The linguistic situations and the concomitant language requirements of
universities differ widely across Europe. It is, therefore, neither possible nor
opportune to produce a single model for university language policies.
Rather, the Higher Education Language Policy (HELP) initiative will discuss
and seek to agree on a set of reference points designed to guide
universities in developing and implementing their own specific policies.
6 Work undertaken in the European Network for the Promotion of Language
Learning Among All Undergraduates (ENLU) suggests that reference
points could be linked to the following fields and issues:
? university strategy, especially a university’s Europeanisation and
internationalisation strategy, and its approach to the Bologna reforms;
? consultation among all institutional actors concerned as a basis for the
development of institutional structures to support language learning;
? integration of languages into students’ academic programmes;
? quality assurance and enhancement;
? pedagogical issues, such as learning outcomes, methods of learning,
teaching and assessment, and the use of new learning environments.
7 There is a keen interest among universities in obtaining information,
including case studies, about the successful development and
implementation of languages-for-all-undergraduates policies. One of the
most important future tasks will consist in collecting and processing case
studies and in facilitating dissemination.
8 Given the importance of university language policy both for the future of
higher education in Europe and for the European project as a whole, it is
suggested that the issue of institutional language policy should be
incorporated into the new Erasmus University Charter and made an issue
in external quality reviews.
III. THE BOLOGNA STRUCTURE AND THE GENERALISATION OF
LANGUAGE LEARNING AMONG ALL UNDERGRADUATES
9 The change in paradigm associated with the Bologna reforms, notably the
emphasis on learning outcomes expressed in terms of competences,
should enhance the status of skills-based language learning at higher
education level and, as a result, of language offerings for students of all
10 The change in paradigm can have positive effects on language studies for
students of all disciplines, facilitating the promotion of independent and co-
operative learning and thereby preparing students for lifelong language
11 The flexibility awarded by modularisation and credit accumulation is a
welcome means of incorporating non-subject-specific offerings such as
language modules into courses of study, particularly at first-cycle level.
12 It is regrettable that a number of universities, in an attempt to transform
traditional four- or five-year programmes into three-year bachelor
programmes, have dropped languages from first-cycle programmes
altogether. Universities should bear in mind that the Bologna reforms go
well beyond the introduction of new structures; they require curricular
reorientation in line with changing academic and professional requirements,
and languages play a crucial role in this respect.
13 The National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB) has played an important
part in the ENLU project, and national students’ unions participated in the
Europe-wide ENLU consultation. There is clear evidence of an increasing
interest in language learning among undergraduates across Europe.
14 Students are a crucial stakeholder and full partner in higher education
governance. Therefore, students need to be included in all activities
relating to policy development both at European and institutional level.
V. QUALITY ASSURANCE AND ENHANCEMENT
15 There is clear evidence that in many universities in Europe the quality of
language offerings for students of all disciplines is insufficient. The
enhancement of language education must be given a higher priority by
16 In line with the views expressed by many respondents in the Europe-wide
ENLU consultation, the HELP Network will elaborate a quality framework
for higher education language learning and teaching, drawing on work
undertaken in the Thematic Network Project in the Area of Languages II
17 An important quality aspect in higher education language learning and
teaching is the use of instruments and concepts related to the Bologna
Process such as modularisation, credit points, definition of entry
requirements and of learning outcomes in terms of competences, and
reflection on methods of learning, teaching and assessment related to set
learning outcomes, as well as continuous updating of provision on the
basis of dialogue with stakeholders. The Council of Europe’s Common
European Framework of Reference for Languages is particularly relevant to
the definition of learning outcomes.
18 The professional development of higher education language teachers
needs to be given particular attention. The CEL/ELC will seek to launch a
project for the development of a European Master for the training of higher
education language teachers.
19 Given the importance of higher education language learning and teaching,
language programmes and offerings should be incorporated into
universities’ quality culture and included in internal and external quality
20 The use of new learning environments for higher education language
learning has been on the agenda for a long time. The benefits associated
with it include, among others, an increase in the range of languages offered
and of the number of students learning languages; promotion of learner
autonomy; greater flexibility of learning schedules.
21 The introduction of e-learning requires careful planning and preparation,
including the training of teachers and students. It has to be incorporated
into an institution’s general e-learning strategy and into its language policy.
22 There is a general lack of information about materials available and
successful practices in place. The HELP Network will seek to improve the
dissemination of information about materials and practices.
23 Consideration needs to be given to the issue of inter-institutional co-
operation, and this both in terms of the level of co-operation (local, regional,
national, bi-national, European) and of its purpose (sharing of resources,
materials development, joint delivery). The HELP Network will seek to
gather together pertinent associations and centres of good practice with a
view to initiating co-operation and European projects in this field.
VII. THE USE OF A SECOND LANGUAGE AS MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION
24 While the teaching of content through other languages has become a
success story in pre-tertiary education across Europe, this approach has
hardly been professionally developed at HE level.
25 One of the side effects of growing student mobility within and into Europe,
the creation of joint programmes, and other forms of cooperation in
education and research is the increased use of English as medium of
instruction in universities in non-English-speaking countries. The adoption
of English as a vehicular language in higher education is widely reported as
being carried out without specific educational-linguistic attention being
given to ensuing impact on teaching and learning.
26 Prioritised areas requiring attention concern (i) discipline-specific
methodologies optimal for situations in which teaching and learning is
through a second language, (ii) the use of ICT and multi-media for learning
through other languages which carries a dual focus on subject and
language, and (iii) the adoption of multilingual regimes in integrated or joint
27 Drawing on successful practice, including that identified in pre-tertiary
academic education, the HELP Network will seek to define parameters that
universities should observe in this field. In addition, it will gather, process
and disseminate relevant information.
28 The HELP Network will consider the possibility of launching a project for
the development and piloting of learning environments facilitating quality
teaching through other languages.
VIII. THE HELP NETWORK
29 A marketing survey conducted in 2005, the consultation carried out early in
2006, and the Nancy Conference provided ample evidence that (i) there is
considerable support for the idea that a more permanent European network
will be an appropriate mechanism for promoting language learning among
all undergraduates, and that (ii) a substantial number of universities, higher
education associations and other organisations are interested in joining
such a network.
30 The HELP Network is designed as an inclusive structure. The CEL/ELC will
seek to gather together as many European and national organisations with
a stake in language learning at undergraduate level as possible – to
achieve synergies and to avoid duplication of effort. The Network will also
seek to attract universities from across Europe (including units from within
universities), and it will be open to individuals who share the aims of the
Network. It will cooperate with the European Commission and the Council
31 The HELP Network is expected to adopt an action plan based on the draft
action plan presented in the Consultation Document. Encouragement will
be given to the preparation and launch of European projects to be
contracted and coordinated by member institutions and organisations.
32 The HELP Network is expected to take the form of a European consortium.
It will be supported by a central office located at the Freie Universität Berlin,
with an additional facility located in Brussels.
33 The central office will have a crucial role in the HELP Observatory to be set
up, which will have the task of gathering, processing, and disseminating
quantitative data as well as information about best practices in language
policy and provision.
34 The ENLU partnership and the CEL/ELC intend to take the lead in the
creation of the HELP Network. They wish to discuss a future course for
action with potential strategic partners. They hope that a number of leading
European organisations will be willing to take on specific responsibilities in
the HELP initiative. They sincerely hope that the HELP initiative will
achieve the breakthrough in the field of languages for all undergraduates
that the ENLU partnership has always regarded as its ultimate goal.