Language learning in universities exists in many different forms in higher education institutions across the UK. One area that has expanded significantly over the past 15 years is the provision for non-specialist language learners (also known as Institution–wide Languages Provision), with well over 60,000 students learning languages at universities in this way. This is to be celebrated. However, among students, teachers and employers there is a recognised need for some kind of light touch and low cost, and at the same time reliable and standardised, model for language learning certification.
The UNILANG certification scheme serves to help UK university students articulate and translate what their language learning outcomes mean in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It provides a recognised certificate that will inform students’ CVs and will explain to careers services and employers the value of their languages. The scheme runs alongside the award of credits or other HE awards by the HEI concerned. UNILANG is also designed to assist course providers to map their courses onto a transparent and translatable model.
UNILANG utilises the existing external examiner system in UKHE to validate and approve the mapping of student learning outcomes on to the CEFR. A register of external examiners who are approved to do this work is held and maintained by AULC. Approved examiners are professionals who are experienced in applying CEFR descriptors to learning outcomes. Approval is based on a written attestation which is submitted to the UNILANG Certification Committee for consideration. The written attestation needs to be supported by a senior or very experienced colleague of the applicant who works in the field of language teaching. Each approved External Examiner has a unique UNILANG examiner number.
UNILANG certificates can only be issued for a particular language with the agreement of the appointed and approved External Examiner. Certificates are only awarded if a student can demonstrate, through an adequately rigorous assessment process, that they have attained the level of language proficiency corresponding to the relevant CEFR descriptors. Mere completion of a university language module or course unit will not automatically mean that a student is entitled to receive a certificate.
- Certificates are issued by the student’s institution and carry both the institutional logo and the UNILANG logo, but the detailed design of the certificate is determined by the awarding institution.
- Certificates may show a global level of attainment or they may provide information about the level of proficiency attained in each of the four main skills: speaking, writing, listening, reading.
- Institutions should send UNILANG a record of all the certificates issued in each academic year, indicating the languages and the levels.