Bachelor of Arts in Applied European Languages
1. Motivation for a new bachelor degree
Several European universities already offer applied language degrees that differ from the traditional
Letters degrees in that they focus on applied aspects like translation, interpreting or business
communication, often though not always involving two foreign languages. The curricula of these
degrees often also offer subsidiary courses on law and/or economics. Furthermore, the curricula
typically devote due attention to Area Studies and students are encouraged to spend some time in a
country where one of their foreign languages is spoken; this is organized as a study exchange or work
placement of a few months.
In practice, however, the existing degrees cater mostly for the local market. The majority of graduates
become language specialists at the service of companies and organizations in their own countries.
This is understandable given that the curriculum is taught almost exclusively in the student’s native
country, often reflecting the viewpoint of that context, and with only a limited stay abroad for one of the
A growing number of students, often students who have already stayed abroad or were born in an
international setting, have higher aspirations. Their ambition is to become part of an increasingly
mobile workforce in the evolving European and global market
This type of student needs a much more internationally oriented degree, with a fully-fledged stay
abroad for both foreign languages. This stay may involve study at a foreign university, but it may also
involve an extended work placement.
The present trend towards globalization requires a new degree that caters to these new needs.
Most of the partners that now apply for the new degree already have experience with a four-year
bachelor programme that involves two academic years spent abroad. So far it has been organized
under a multiple degree arrangement. After extensive consultation, it has been decided to create a
new bachelor programme sui generis, to be organized as a Joint Bachelor where regulations allow
this, or otherwise as a Parallel Bachelor. The design of a new and separate Bachelor guarantees that
a consistent separate curriculum can be drawn up that answers to the specific goals that were outlined
above. Even in the case of the Parallel Bachelor, uniformity will be guaranteed by the choice of the
same name, the same learning outcomes and the same programme structure as for the Joint
2. Needs of the labour market
The increased emphasis within the EU on the need for mobile employees and entrepeneurs, as well
as the growing globalization of the economy, will continue to increase demand for flexible linguists with
substantial international experience and preferably with an understanding of the business context.
The need for these linguists is aptly reflected in the fact that the market is prepared to pay for them. A
2008 study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England mentions modern foreign languages
as one of the strategic branches of higher education and found that among the graduates of all
strategic branches they rank first in the level of pay 3.5 years after graduation
An increasing number of job offers from multinational companies and organizations, whether for public
relations managers, information officers, commercial assistants for the export sector, (assistant)
project leaders for translation agencies, copywriters for multilingual advertising agency etc., stress the
need for mobility and an international attitude.
3. Academic relevance
The globalization and the increased contact between cultures that comes with it, has spawned interest
within applied linguistic research into the phenomenon of intercultural aspects of language. This new
area of research has led to a spate of publications and new journals.
Students of the Bachelor of Arts in Applied European Languages will be introduced to research
methods and techniques and will, moreover, gain first-hand experience in intercultural contacts. This
should encourage research-minded graduates to go on to a Master’s in which they can genuinely
contribute to research in this promising new area of research.
The Bachelor of Arts in Applied European Languages will also devote attention to the “transfer skills”
applied in translation, another area of research that has seen explosive growth in recent years and to
which the graduates may feel attracted.
4. Economic viability of the new degree
For the new degree to be viable, it needs (a) to attract a sufficient number of students and (b) require
an affordable investment of means and staff.
The present multiple degree initiative gives a reliable indication of the number of students that the new
degree may be able to attract. Some partners exchange up to 10 students per year, others (notably
the British and Irish partners, who have fewer students taking two languages) exchange 2 students per
partner. Adding up the exchange potential of the various partners, and also counting the students of
the first and fourth years who attend the curriculum at their home university, the projected capacity of
the consortium is around 120 students each year over the full programme.
The limitation of the present initiative to the well-studied languages English, French, German and
Spanish is a further guarantee that sufficient numbers will be attracted. In fact, figures of the existing
multiple degree programme suggest that actual demand is considerably higher than the projected
capacity. Over the past seven years, the annual number of applicants for the existing programme in
Cologne alone has ranged between 77 and 97.
The financial strength of the proposal lies in the fact that the curriculum can be built on the basis of a
careful selection of existing courses, most of them from existing applied language bachelors, some
from existing programmes on economics and business administration. The mere fact that the students
travel to three universities, guarantees that they will be confronted with the different outlook that they
need to become the flexible intercultural mediators that the degree aims at. This comes at a small
financial cost for the partner universities.