On Campus

Cambridge drops second language requirement

Number of Brits studying foreign languages has fallen sharply since government ruled language not mandatory after age 14

Cambridge University said Saturday it has decided to no longer require applicants to have studied a second language because too few British state schools teach languages.Cambridge’s admissions director Geoff Parks said the university feared some of the brightest state school students were being excluded because their schools had cancelled language classes.

Cambridge, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, was the only institution in Britain that required its undergraduates to have studied a foreign language in secondary school.

“This change would remove something which has, unfortunately, become a significant barrier impeding access to Cambridge,” Parks said.

The number of students studying languages in Britain has fallen sharply since the government ruled four years ago that they were not mandatory after the age of 14. Fewer than half of students in state and private schools study a foreign language at 16, down from 80 per cent in 2000. Only 17 per cent of state primary schools currently teach foreign language, according to the Department for Children’s Schools and Families.

However, the government hopes to reverse the trend by making foreign language classes compulsory in all state primary schools by 2010, the department said in a statement.

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