Intercultural Communicative Competence and Employability in the Languages Curriculum at the Open University UK

Baumann, Uwe and Vialleton, Elodie (2017). Intercultural Communicative Competence and Employability in the Languages Curriculum at the Open University UK. In: Intercultural Communicative Competence: A Competitive Advantage for Global Employability (Císlerová, Eva and Štefl, Martin eds.), Czech Technical University, Prague, pp. 35–45.



In recent years, higher education in Great Britain has undergone considerable change, most markedly the increase in fees from about £9,000 for a BA degree to £27,000 in 2012 in England. This fee increase has led to more questioning of the benefits of university education and a stronger focus on whether the students' financing of their education achieves a return on investment. The increased earning over a life time are estimated to range from £100,000 to £500,000 (Anderson) and, as repaying their student debt has become a major preoccupation for new graduates, employability has become a key theme in university publicity: "Enhance your employability" is a key message given to prospective students by the most popular degree course at the Open University, an open and distance higher education provider in the UK, ranked 14th overall in a national league table for the employability of its graduates.

Research (for example Araújo et al.) has demonstrated that knowledge of a second language increases employability across Europe. The importance of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) for working in multicultural teams is widely acknowledged and recognised by employers (CBI 32,39) and so is intercultural dialogue for social cohesion (CoE, White Paper 5). Degrees in modern languages, especially when they integrate the development of ICC, therefore present strong employability benefits.

This paper presents the approach the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the Open University in the UK has taken to integrate both employability and ICC skills in its curriculum and enhance the skills base of graduates and their chances of finding work in the national or international graduate workforce. We will describe the design principles and development of our detailed framework and supporting resource - designed to span our entire modern languages programme, in five languages, from ab initio to degree level - and demonstrate how our innovative learning design implements the framework and supports the training of highly employable multilingual global citizens able to articulate the range of skills they have developed.

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