The School of Languages and Cultures is a key hub for scholarly engagement with languages and cultures throughout the world. The demand for graduates with high levels of proficiency in key world and regional languages and advanced cultural knowledge is on the rise.

In order to better understand the future employment conditions that will affect young people, The Foundation for Young Australians recently published a report on “The New Work Order”. The report reveals the skills the workforce of the future will need to possess, and how drastically this has changed from an economy previously dominated by manufacturing and manual tasks, bound by a mindset of having one career for life.

Amongst key areas such as digital literacy and problem solving skills, the report emphasizes language proficiency. Advertisements for jobs requiring bilingual skills grew by 181% from 2012 to 2015. In other words, they almost tripled. In presenting the findings of this report at the 2017 Myriad Conference in Brisbane, FYA’s CEO Jan Owen stated that initially this figure was a surprise, however with further consideration it made total sense. She went on to say that, considering the low rate of high school students graduating with a second language, this increase in demand for bilingual candidates was concerning.

Exacerbated by the march of globalisation, markets across the globe are all finding language related challenges, and often in surprising places. In The Conversation, Gabrielle Hogan-Brun (Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol) argues that “Brexit is a wake-up call for a strategic languages policy in the UK” after studies show losses of approximately £50bn due to lack of not just language skills, but also cultural awareness. In planning for hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, teachers in Japan are turning to classic BBC comedies such as Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf as examples of English conversation, following fears that current English speaking levels are insufficient to support the expected influx of professional and recreational travellers.

The work and achievements of staff and students in the School of Languages and Cultures reported in this current edition of In Focus attests to their depth of engagement with these issues, and with the world at large. I invite you to read on and discover more about the exciting ways in which the School is advancing understanding and scholarship of languages around the world.


Professor Michael Haugh

Head of School