Azara Blog: Cambridge University drops foreign language requirement

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Date published: 2008/03/16

The BBC says:

Cambridge University has dropped its requirement for applicants to have a language GCSE because too few pupils now take them.

Independent schools still tend to offer languages, despite them being no longer compulsory beyond the age of 14.

However, only 17% of state primary schools offer them and less than half of GCSE pupils overall take them.

Cambridge is constantly under pressure to increase the share of students it takes from state schools.

Currently, it takes 57% of students from state schools, but has a target to reach between 60% and 63% by 2011.

Experts have argued that at the present rate, Cambridge is likely to miss this benchmark by a year.

The university said one of the factors that has led to the review was the fact that from 2004 children were no longer required to take a foreign language after the age of 14.

It said having a formal entry requirement that at least half of all GCSE students are unable to meet "was not acceptable in the context of Cambridge's commitment to widening participation and access".

Well it does seem a bit gratuitous to insist that for many subjects (e.g. maths and science and engineering), students should have a language GCSE. And of course once upon a time, not very long ago, one had to have Latin to get into Cambridge, and dropping that requirement did not mean that the world had ended. On the other hand, this shows how political interference by central government is distorting (school and university) education in this country.

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