A Short History of the AEL

The current Applied European Languages project builds on a long tradition. It was in 1986, when European Erasmus exchange programmes were still in their infancy, that a small number of higher education institutions joined hands to go beyond simple exchanges and offer their students the opportunity to visit three universities in the course of a four-year bachelor programme, with three degree certificates at the end.

The project went by the name of Applied Languages Europe, abbreviated ALE. Members in the early years included the then Fachhochschule Köln (DE), Ealing College of Higher Education (UK), Université de Provence (FR) and Universidad de Granada (ES). The students in the ALE programme studied two languages (English and/or French and/or German and/or Spanish) as well as practice-oriented courses (typically business, economics and law and/or translation). Students started and ended the four-year course at their home university and spent the middle years at two different universities abroad.

This formula, as well as the principle of multiple certification has survived to this day. However, over the years, evolutions in the various partner countries have meant that members have come and gone, have changed names or have adjusted the terms of their cooperation.

For example, Universität Passau (DE) joined at a particular stage but later dropped out of the programme because the Bavarian University law did not permit a four-year bachelor programme.

In the 1990s Ealing College became Ealing Polytechnic and finally Thames Valley University. This led to a gradual decline of its participation in ALE and eventually the closure of its language degree programmes. To compensate for the loss of the study places in Ealing, other universities were welcomed to the programme: University of Northumbria, Newcastle (UK), John Moores University Liverpool (UK), and University of Limerick (IRL). Yet at Northumbria as well as at John Moores, language departments were soon under siege, which ultimately prevented those partners from continuing their membership. Limerick, for its part, was unable to accommodate all the students of English on the programme.

The lack of English places, always in great demand in the programme, became a major concern. In 2009 University College Ghent (BE) was asked whether they could welcome students that were otherwise destined to go to the UK or Ireland. Under the instigation of the NVAO, the Dutch-Flemish accreditation organization, the consortium of universities wrote up a project to convert the ALE into a Joint Bachelor programme and applied for European funding. The name was to be changed to Applied European Languages, AEL for short. It soon transpired that several legal obstacles in the partner countries stood in the way of creating a joint degree in the short term. The new name Applied European Languages was kept but the programme returned to the proven principle of multiple certification.

It was also realized that to guarantee the continuity of the programme, it was safer to have two partner universities per language. For Spanish, the Universidad de Oviedo (ES) was ready to welcome students from September 2014. For French, the Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès started up a pilot project in 2016/17. Further afield, the Kauno Technologijos Universitetas (LT) has expressed an interest in being affiliated to the AEL.

Information on the current AEL partners, with their current names and their degree of involvement in the programme, is available on the home page.