In recognition of the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic poses for international travel, the UCML Special Interest Group on the Year Abroad is working to secure alternative, interim arrangements to enable students whose degrees include an integral year abroad with a Modern Language to continue their linguistic progress and sustain skills and knowledge development to an advanced level.

In line with the QAA subject benchmark statements for Languages, Cultures, and Societies, this is likely to include some combination of virtual mobility and residence abroad as circumstances permit, focusing on alternative opportunities for contact with the target language environment through shared digital resources and, where possible, remote/virtual interaction.

The UCML SIG has produced a set of virtual mobility principles for Year Abroad 2020-21:

The UCML YA SIG is exploring possibilities for a supplementary suite of virtual Year Abroad activities tailored to different options. This includes a package of MOOCs that have been made available to the 2020/21 Year Abroad cohort courtesy of Futurelearn, with the collaboration of Cardiff University, University of Leeds, and the University of Southampton. Dr Nicola Bermingham (Liverpool) and Dr James Illingworth (Leicester/De Montfort) have also produced a Guide to Virtual Mobility, aimed at students undertaking virtual mobility programmes during the Year Abroad 2020/21, which includes details of the MOOC package:

Other activities currently being considered include:


  • Access to online courses at exchange partner institutions (in the target language) where these are available.
  • Virtual exchanges between students at exchange partner institutions where these are possible.


  • Virtual classroom meet-ups with teachers/students in schools, facilitated by the British Council where possible.
  • Training activities led by national agency partners, facilitated by the British Council where possible.


  • Masterclasses with translation/interpreting agencies or other placement providers to explore what could be done remotely.
  • Group projects for overseas employers, e.g. group translation project, global enterprise project, storyboarding ad campaign.

The Chair is liaising regularly with the British Council to ensure a coordinated approach in line with the relevant national agencies, including the national directors of the Erasmus+ programme, connecting into Commission decisions around Erasmus+. Technical and legal/regulatory issues pertaining to fees, funding, insurance are also being integrated into the Year Abroad planning by the UCML YA SIG Chair.

Programme Leads in Modern Languages at each University will find supporting guidance from the Chair of the UCML Year Abroad SIG, Prof. Jonathan Long (Durham), through regular mailings to the relevant UCML YA SIG list. For any queries relating to the Year Abroad programme currently in development, please contact UCML Project Coordinator, Dr James Illingworth, in the first instance:

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