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Language mentoring project shortlisted for a Higher Education award

17 September 2021

A project which addresses the challenges facing modern languages has been shortlisted at 2021’s "Oscars of Higher Education".

Cardiff University’s Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Mentoring Project has been shortlisted in the ‘Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year’ category at this year’s THE Awards and is one of just five projects (of 160 shortlisted) from a Welsh university.

Now in its 17th year, the THE Awards recognise the best of UK higher education, across 20 categories covering all aspects of university activity.

The MFL Mentoring Project began in 2015 to increase the number of young learners taking languages in Wales. Various factors, including low motivation, perceived difficulty and lack of options, have led to a 64% decline in the number of Welsh students studying a modern language at GCSE. In England, uptake has fallen by 48% over a similar period.

To combat this, the MFL Mentoring Project uses mentoring methodologies to broaden horizons, boost motivation and inspire language learning at GCSE and beyond. The project trains undergraduate and postgraduate students to deliver six mentoring sessions to Year 8/9 pupils before they make their GCSE subject choices. The project is unique as it offers targeted and sustained support at a key point in a pupil’s life and works with pupils who are unsure about languages or are against studying them at GCSE. Each project cycle concludes with a visit to a university, or a suite of activities, raising pupil aspirations for continued study.

The main drive of the project is to make languages accessible to all, tackling the low level of uptake amongst young people in socio-economically deprived communities. The project aims to also improve equality, diversity and social cohesion by developing pupils’ understandings of different peoples, cultures and languages.

Speaking of the shortlisting, Lucy Jenkins, Project Director said, “Everyone in the MFL Mentoring Project is thrilled that our work has been recognised at such a prestigious event in the education calendar. Our focus is always on the young learners whom we inspire to study languages but being recognised by our peers in education is a huge achievement too.”

This year’s THE Awards ceremony will take place on 25 November 2021 in central London.

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