Demand For Language Professionals & Applied Linguists Is Growing: Dr Stephen Corbett, University Of Portsmouth

In an exclusive interview with Dr Stephen Corbett, Head of School of Education, Languages and Linguistics, University Of Portsmouth, opens up on the scope and prospects of studying education and languages. Excerpts

You have the experience of leading academic teams in both the 'further education' and 'higher education' sectors. In what ways, you think collaborative working between higher and further education institutions can improve the academic experience of students?  

The two education sectors (VET and HE) may appear vastly different, however, much like other education sectors they build on comparable principles. Both sectors are seeking to enable students to meet their aspirations through the medium of education. A key reason I chose to work for the University of Portsmouth is the organisation’s values which seek to provide the best opportunities for students. It endeavours to delivery high quality learning experience for all of its students, preparing them for their next steps whether this be further study or realising their career ambitions. 

I do believe that there are a range of education institutions based in VET and HE that subscribe to similar values. However, at times these organisations can operate alone rather than combining their capabilities. It can be complex and sometimes challenging to work collaboratively, but when it is done well the results are truly remarkable. For example, I recently led a project where my school, School of Education, Languages and Linguistics (SELL) and a local college, HSDC worked together. The project called ‘Have Dinner on Us’ provided HSDC’s Hospitality Apprentices with a new work environment experience and university students with free meals throughout June to help during the exam period. In one month, the project provided over 2000 meals and enabled a range of hospitality apprentices to pass important assessments on their course. This is a great example of two institutions with aligned values seeking to work together for the betterment of their students. 

Supporting our students is very important to me. Our courses attract student from around the world. Me and my team work very hard to ensure all students are welcomed, for example, students who have travelled from other countries have a specialised induction programme to help them to settle into the country, city and their course so to ensure students enjoy their studies. This programme is the start of a student journey in experiencing new cultures as well as new approaches to study.  

What postgraduate courses are offered at the University of Portsmouth? And what are the admission criteria for international students? 

If a student is interested in studying at University of Portsmouth they would need to possess a degree or an industry recognised qualification alongside IELTS band of 6.5 or equivalent.   

Given the highly specialised nature of these courses they have become very popular and so the number of students accepted each year is restricted.

These courses include: 

MA in Business Communication for International Leadership 

MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL 

MA in Education Studies 

MSc in Educational Leadership and Management    

Highlight the increasing global demand for language professionals and applied linguists in diverse industries. 

The demand for language professionals and applied linguists is definitely growing and there are multiple factors that are causing this. 

We are living in vibrant times where our economies have expanded and no country is isolated or out of reach. Hence, the need for language professionals who can facilitate communication and cultural understanding in diverse markets. Multilingual markets have become essential for businesses seeking to cater to the linguistic preferences of their audiences, necessitating language experts for translation and localisation needs. 

Not to miss out the ever-expanding access to e-commerce and digital platforms. Language professionals help in creating multilingual websites, marketing materials, and customer support services to engage with global customers. International relations and diplomacy also rely heavily on language professionals and interpreters to enable smooth communication during diplomatic interactions and negotiations. 

Even in healthcare sector for e.g. language professionals are critical for accurate translation and interpretation to serve multilingual populations. In fact, this is true for many industries, across the globe. 

Essentially, language professionals and applied linguists are needed for effective communication and cultural sensitivity in an interconnected world across diverse industries and sectors. The opportunities are massive. 

What challenges you face serving as the head of School of Education, Languages and Linguistics (SELL) and how you overcome them?  

It can be a challenging job, but I have greatly enjoyed and valued my career in education to date. I began working education in England’s further education sector, also known as the vocational education sector (VET). I very much enjoyed this work, in particular engaging student in a highly positive educational experience that led to them achieving their ambitions. I moved to higher education was to lead teacher education (PGCE in Further Education and Training, University of Portsmouth) for those wishing to work in VET. The opportunity to support the next generation of teachers was greatly rewarding. I was also incredibly proud that in 2018, under my leadership, this provision was given the highest quality rating possible by the UK’s education inspectorate; Ofsted.  

Working in education is immensely rewarding not only from seeing students succeed, but also the opportunity to work with a wide range of people. Having worked in different education sectors and in different roles I can genuinely say I greatly enjoy my work.  

If you are someone who is motivated by helping others to achieve their goals and are willing to work hard then working in education is a career that you could be well suited to.  

How can studying Languages and Applied Linguistics help in fostering cultural exchange and understanding? 

Simply put, studying Languages and Applied Linguistics enables language proficiency, cultural sensitivity and communication skills necessary for fostering cultural exchange and understanding. By promoting effective communication and respecting diverse cultural norms, language professionals contribute significantly to build understanding and appreciation between communities around the world. 

Language allows effective communication with people from different cultures and breaks down barriers and Applied Linguistics looks at the cultural context of language, brings in cultural sensitivity and an enhanced appreciation for varied cultures. 

In international relations and diplomacy, language professionals' interpretation and mediation skills bridge linguistic and cultural differences, promoting cooperation and respect by dispelling stereotypes and encouraging cultural exchange. 

Effective communication between people from different cultures breaks down barriers. This is why it is important for us to consider the cultural context of language, understand cultural sensitivity and have an enhanced appreciation for varied cultures. This can empower and support inclusion in educational and societal settings whilst also preserving diverse cultural heritage.

Underline the interdisciplinary skills that can be gained through studying Languages and Applied Linguistics. And what are the career prospects? 

Studying degrees in languages and education are immensely important and lead to a range of career opportunities. Our graduates progress onto careers that you may expect such as becoming teachers, headteachers, translators and interpreters. But we also have graduates move into other industries such as marketing, international trade, banking and the public sector. This is because degrees in languages and education develop skills and knowledge that are fundamental to so many roles. In an increasingly globalised world we need a diverse workforce who can tackle the big issues of our day. This requires contributions from all disciplines of which education and languages are a key component of. 

What has been the track record of campus placements of SELL. Please provide some figures from the recent years. 

One of the challenges that face all graduates is how their degree will be used when they complete their studies. Increasingly students feel under pressure to choose degrees for their career prospect rather than the enjoyment of study. I therefore think it is important that students do not feel compromised in making a choice that is right for them. It is for this reason that in addition to providing excellent cultural experiences our school facilitates opportunities for student to gain industry experience. We do this is a range of different ways such as; hosting guest speakers from industry and sector bodies, arranging work placements, and making assessments applicable to the workplace.

Each year we arrange over 500 placements for our students. Recently we also developed a set of new postgraduate degrees that have one year study and one year work experience enabling student to gain both academic qualification and industry skills.

Any message for the education community?

My research has previously focussed on the development needs of those who work in education with a focus on managers. A good example of this was an article called ‘Ladder of competencies for education middle managers in England’ which was published in the International Journal of Training and Development. Stemming from this research I became increasingly aware of the challenges all of us working in education face. As I highlighted earlier working in education is immensely rewarding but can be hard too. My current research on wellbeing in the education workforce is seeking to explore how we can improve wellbeing in the workplace. My most recent article 'Further education workforce wellbeing: Did Covid actually change anything' is the first in a series of published research I am currently working on that investigates education workforce wellbeing internationally.  

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