University of Loughborough – Language Gateways into the Professions: German for students of Civil Engineering

Author(s): Teresa Birks
Institution/Organisation: CILT, the National Centre for Languages (UK)


1.1 Scope of the initiative


The Language Gateways into the Professions project is an innovative partnership project coordinated by CILT, the National Centre for Languages and funded by DIUS, the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Partners in the project include the modern languages departments and vocational (engineering or built environment) departments within the Universities of Bristol, Kingston, Loughborough and Salford working in collaboration with sector skills councils, professional bodies and employer to design and deliver contextualised language courses to students on engineering and built environment degrees.

The four partner HEIs developed courses autonomously from one another though shared and learnt from each other’s experiences over a period of one year during which the four HEIs and other partners met four times.


Specific – Loughborough

An initiative undertaken in collaboration between the languages department and the department of civil engineering

Aimed at third year Masters students of Civil Engineering

An initiative involving the establishment of partnerships with HEIs and employers in other countries and encouraging work placements abroad


1.2 Range of languages learned

German – 20 hour course delivered intensively over a period of 7 days

Ab initio course – aiming to attain GCSE level

Course was optional but accredited

German the only option


1.3 Learning outcomes

Course aims to develop civil engineering context-specific language skills

Develop the student’s ability to make oral presentations on civil engineering

Develop the student’s ability to write a report on civil engineering related topic

Take ab initio students to GCSE level German

Ability to use context-specific vocabulary:

1.4 Practical realisation

The course has been approved as a 10 credit module – approved using Dean’s Action – course is optional

Five days in the UK and two days in Berlin where students experience language in the real working and social environment

The trip to Berlin is a teaching trip, including presentations, teaching sessions – 4 teaching staff, 3 language teachers and one German-speaking Civil Engineer

The Civil Engineering department has funding for the enhancement of the student experience and £4,000 was invested for the Berlin trip

Development of a contextualised language curriculum including civil engineering vocabulary, cameo situations, materials on bridges, sewers, and verbs of construction that are not so common in normal use of language

Diversification of materials – the intensive course means that the students eat, drink, sleep German

Integration of language learning with student’s mainstream academic subject

Attained GCSE level German – but retention an issue (and progression)

Collaboration with employer (Bechtel)

Very good collaboration between language department and engineering department

Improve graduate employability

European / international partnerships


2.1 Context


In response to ‘The Gateways into the Professions’ report produced by Sir Alan Langlands (2005) a number of projects, including the Language Gateways into the Professions,  were funded by the government in order to tackle the full range of issues and barriers faced by people seeking to enter the professions through higher education.  The 4 key themes arising from the report were recruitment and retention to the professions; student finance/debt; widening participation and collaborative working.

In addition to the Langlands report, the Gateways projects were developed with reference to the Leitch Review of Skills in England (2006) by encouraging collaborative working and strengthening partnerships between key stakeholders including Government, HEIs, Sector Skills Councils and Professional Bodies.

With reference to languages, the Langlands report noted that, ‘lack of protection of the title linguist is the biggest single barrier to entry into the professions which can include translators, interpreters, bilingual practitioners of other professions and trainers and teachers of modern foreign languages.’

The report also noted that, ‘there is competition from graduates from EU and non-EU countries who can offer not only their own language and English but also mainstream skills such as law and accountancy’ and that, ‘closure of language departments in universities and other HEIs due to lack of finance will mean even fewer linguists in the future.’

Specific  - Loughborough

2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

Overall aims

This project aimed to:

Specific aims

Loughborough University aimed to:






5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

5.2 Broader implications