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Scottish Network Warns of Unintended Damage to Scotland’s Historical Relationship with Europe

26th June 2020 | Categories: Research, Uncategorised

The Scottish Network for Nineteenth-Century European Cultures – SNNEC – has warned of the damaging effects of closing down Modern Languages departments in UK universities.

SNNEC recently explored Scottish and European connections and exchanges with ‘nations-in-the-making’ during the nineteenth century, reflecting on what knowledge then offers us now, through a series of academic workshops and a major public event.

Their project findings have been made available in a new themed Research Framework hosted by the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework, which is part of the Society for Antiquaries of Scotland, the project’s main partner and co-investigator.

The Framework offers new perspectives on how ideas circulated, and how circulation was influenced by, for instance, language learning, translation, transnational spaces of sociability (literary salons, cafés, societies), migration and immigration, print culture, as well as life writings.

The project also raises the importance of the ability to read and understand primary sources in their original language, which opens up new interpretations of Scotland’s past, its peoples, and material objects.

Now the project’s principal investigator warns that our ability to understand Scotland’s history with her European neighbours is under threat due to the closure of Modern Foreign Language courses in UK universities, as well as the uncertainty about the continuation of the Erasmus+ scheme, and the future of the British Council due to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, respectively.

A December 2019 report from the University Council of Modern Languages reveals a systemic decline in the number of Modern Foreign Language departments in the UK, with the number of language degrees offered in that year dropping from 69 to 62 in 2018. BBC Scotland’s The Nine analysis also revealed that fewer and fewer pupils are now opting to study a language at National 4 and National 5 level.

Dr Katharine Mitchell, the network’s director, says:

The project has found that the study of Modern Languages is an essential lens through which to explore relationships between Scotland and Europe, not just in the past, but in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Sir Tom Devine, author of The Scottish Nation, who gave a public lecture at a SNNEC event held at the National Museum of Scotland, says:

In a post-Brexit world, the role and function of Departments of Modern Languages will become even more essential if we are to ensure the maintenance of connections with Europe which will remain a major trading partner of the UK. Their future has to be secured for the benefit of future generations of students.”

To access the project’s findings, visit the ScARF website.

Follow the SNECC on Twitter @SNNEC-2018.

Featured Image: The Scottish and European flag, and Keith Haring’s ‘Tuttomondo’, 1989

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