University of Aveiro, Member of EUF-CE

Author(s): Gillian Moreira
Institution/Organisation: University of Aveiro (PT)


1.1 Scope of the initiative

The foreign language teaching initiative we will describe was undertaken within a higher education institution, more specifically, within the Department of Languages and Cultures of the University of Aveiro. It was designed to widen the scope of languages offered both within the university and to the wider community, as well as maximise the department’s physical and human resources. We have chosen to describe this initiative because of its implications for the way languages are taught and perceived within our institution, for the strengthening of our relationship with the community in a time of changing realities, and for the range of languages and learners it has brought into our Department.

1.2 Range of languages studied

The languages offered within this initiative have included the local language, Portuguese, taught as a Foreign Language (PLE), English, German, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Japanese, and Tetum . Of these languages, some are taught in the Department as part of its curricular study programmes (namely, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic, although the latter three are not widely taught in the community), while others are offered exclusively on an extra-curricular basis, depending on the availability of teachers able and willing to contribute.

Which language programmes run depends on both offer and demand. Starting with an offer of Russian in 2004/2005, it has been possible to widen the range of offer every subsequent year. As for demand, a minimum of 10 learners is required to run a programme in any given language, although exceptionally programmes have been run with less learners. Of the above languages, only Hungarian and Tetum have not been able to run for lack of demand.

For the numbers of students who have completed language programmes since the 2000, see Table 1 (attached).

It should be noted that Portuguese has been taught as a Foreign Language in the Department since the early 1980s and mostly within the Erasmus/Socrates Programme, this activity has increased on a par with internationalisation and rising demand, including from incoming Campus Europae students who have benefited from Intensive PLE courses since 2005/2006. In the academic year 2007/08 26 CE students have taken part in additional Campus Europae Intensive Language Course which lasted 4 weeks prior to the beginning of an academic year. The course was financed equally by Campus Europae and the University of Aveiro.

1.3 Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes established in each case depend on the languages and the level/goals of the groups who study them. In general, however, the CEFRL levels and descriptors are used to determine learning outcomes, while specific learning goals may be established in accordance with perceived ‘technical’ or other needs, for example, academic study skills in English for postgraduate students. In fact, most languages are taught within the A1 to B2 bands, and, with the exception of English and PLE, for which students’ needs tend to be more clearly defined, are studied for general interest, for pleasure, or to have an extra skill on the CV.

1.4 Practical realisation

Language tuition takes place in the evenings, in the Department of Languages, according to demand and level / needs of learners.

With the exception of Portuguese as a Foreign Language, which accompany the semester (14-15 weeks), extra-curricular language programmes last 12 weeks and may have 2, 3 or 4 hours a week. Teachers and learners make use of the Department’s facilities, which include classrooms equipped with data show, audio and video equipment, language laboratory and computer rooms. The university’s distance learning platform is also available for teachers and learners.

On completion of the programme, learners are awarded certificates of attendance or attainment, and university students may register the credits gained as extra-curricular credits. In this case, each programme (of 3 or 4 hours a week) corresponds to 4 ects credits, calculated on the basis of classroom hours and student workload. PLE programmes are allocated 6 ects credits.


2.1 Context

When the University of Aveiro was founded in the early 1970s, one of the key areas of its development was teacher education, and the Department of Languages and Cultures grew up around the need to prepare language teachers for the state system and was oriented towards the teaching and learning of Portuguese (as Mother Tongue), French, German and English. This situation, which dominated the activities of the Department, lasted through to the mid 1990s, when the market for teachers became swamped and it became apparent that either the Department find new avenues to explore or it would cease to exist as a teaching unit. It is out of this reality that new initiatives were born, including new study programmes, closely linked to the community and its qualification needs - most notably in the field of languages and business - in the early 2000s, and the introduction of new languages – Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. This led to a shift in emphasis and in expertise in the department from a mostly literary and culturally oriented tradition to a more language teaching reality (not an unusual experience in Portugal or Europe).

It is out of this reality and the changing context in Higher Education and in the community that this extra-curricular language learning initiative developed. The extension of the department’s activities in the field of language teaching and the integration of these activities in the everyday life of its staff represent a continuation of the process of renewal and reflect growing demand for language competences on the part of the institution, university students and staff and the community at large.

2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

The strategic goals of this initiative combine the maximisation of the department’s resources and its revitalisation with the extension of its language teaching activities in the community. 

Specifically, the goals for this initiative can be summarised as follows:



In accordance with its strategic goals, the success indicators which can be identified for this initiative are:



Although no analysis of success factors has yet been undertaken, it can be assumed that they include:



5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

The language learning initiative put into effect by and run out of the Department of Languages and Cultures has so far shown that there is demand for languages both within the institution and in the wider community. It is necessary to build on this positive experience in order to ensure its sustainability, for example, by finding ways to promote adherence to a wider range of languages while consolidating competence in English, to conciliate staffing and institutional needs, to find space for professional staff development, to optimise physical installations and social facilities.

The institution should take note of the need for languages amongst students and professionals, especially since the restructured Bologna study programmes have in their great majority failed to include languages either in their compulsory curricula or their electives, and build this initiative into a visible and comprehensive institutional language policy.

5.2 Broader implications

This initiative could be of interest to other institutions as a way of integrating wider language learning opportunities within the other activities of the institution rather than creating independently-run, associated language schools. This solution has particularly suited our Department/University given its reduced size and inter-departmental structure.

It has been a way of giving institutional importance to languages which it is hoped will have the knock-on effect of raising the profile of languages amongst other Departments and their staff/students, encouraging increasing awareness of the value of languages in changing times.