Brexit risks damaging English language support and the UK’s global outreach

Research by The University of Manchester has found that leaving the European Union may reduce levels of support for the teaching of English as an additional language, due to the withdrawal of EU funding.

The new report, compiled by the University’s Multilingual Manchester research unit through a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, finds that provisions such as English classes for new arrivals are likely to be at direct risk. Others, such as interpretation for access to key services, may be in danger if current EU legislation and recommendations are not maintained.

The report also expresses concern that the public discourse surrounding Brexit may disadvantage provisions for language learning and language skills, which could have a negative effect on Britain’s global outreach.

Drawing on Greater Manchester as an example, the report surveys the current contribution of funding such as the European Social Fund and EU regulations and programmes that support the teaching of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), provisions for translation and interpreting - including those for sign language and regional languages, the study of foreign languages and international research collaboration.It warns that if these contributions are discontinued, the region may face difficulties integrating new arrivals, supporting access to services for minority groups and expanding the skills of the local workforce.

The report highlights the need to ensure that any gaps that may arise as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are covered, and points to the Devo-Manc process as an opportunity to put alternative provisions in place.

“The Brexit debate has already had a proven negative impact on community relations. As researchers, we wish to work alongside public services and local leadership to ensure that community cohesion remains a priority,” said Professor Yaron Matras, who leads the Multilingual Manchester Research Unit and who supervised the research.“

Languages are key to access and equality, to confidence and understanding, and to skills and development - it is therefore important that the region and the country have a clear vision and a strategy to support language provisions.
Professor Yaron Matras

The report, which was written by Dr Amelia Abercrombie, can be accessed here.

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