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Boosting multilingualism in European Universities

Promoting multilingualism in European higher education is one of the key objectives in European University alliances, including Ulysseus European University in which Haaga-Helia is a partner.


Kitte Marttinen

project director
Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Mirjam Gamrasni

international project officer
Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Published : 16.12.2022

Multilingualism is the ability of an individual speaker or a community of speakers to communicate fluently in three or more languages. Monolingualism is the ability to use only one language, and bilingualism is the ability to use two languages.

Multilingualism is one of the fundamental principles of the Union. I am proud to have the opportunity to show how the European Commission and the Erasmus+ Programme support innovation and excellence in the teaching and learning of languages and at the same time celebrate our linguistic diversity.

– European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

Multilingualism is one of eight key competences for lifelong learning

The European Commission has set eight key competences for lifelong learning in 2018; one of them being multilingualism. In Ulysseus European University, languages play a key role in developing competences for the future.

Haaga-Helia is leading the +2 Language Programme (+2LP) where the name is based on the European Union’s Language Policy 2022, which aims to ensure that all EU citizens are proficient in two foreign languages in addition to their mother tongue. The +2LP offers virtual courses in 10 languages at several levels of proficiency as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Skills 2020.

Boosting multilingualism not only in the context of European Universities, but also on a general level, is a democratic necessity within the Union. It also supports inclusion and participation, e.g. via IT tools, promotes cultural and linguistic diversity as well as intercomprehension among individuals and societies.

Boosting multilingualism within Ulysseus

In Ulysseus, we foster multilingualism in several manners. For instance, we encourage students and staff of our community to participate in our versatile language courses. What differs in our language offering is the open-to-the-world model of University – therefore, our A1 level language courses are open for everyone and we already have learners from all over the world. We also use all six partner languages in addition to English on our website, in press releases and social media.

We believe that our future joint degrees will give a unique possibility for students to navigate between different countries, cultures and languages while doing their studies. This is also emphasized by the EU, which strongly supports the development of joint programmes in several languages, for instance by the criterion on multilingualism in the recently released European Degree Label pilot.

European Language Council Forum

In the beginning of December, we attended the European Language Council Forum organized by the University of Seville to present the +2 Language Programme of Ulysseus European University. This year’s theme concentrated on languages in the European University alliances – challenges and issues. Nearly a hundred people attended the conference from various European University alliances.

In the Forum, we had the chance to get insights from other alliances best practices in enhancing multilingualism. These include among others BIP camps (Blended Intensive Programmes) on language learning, virtual language courses, cultural diversity videos and creation of a language policy for a European University alliance. They also include tandem learning, which means that two students teach each other their native languages, either in person or online. It is also significant to think how to overcome the monolingualism of the lingua franca English within European University alliances.

Thus, there are several multilingual approaches in teaching and learning as well as in working situations across the universities. Ulysseus will start to develop its own language policy fostering multilingualism within the next funding period (2023-2027), while widening its diverse language offerings.