Every student who comes to the UB this year through a mobility programme has received a welcome letter from the rector that sets out information about the UB’s languages of instruction and all of the resources that are available to learn Catalan. This is one of the first visible actions to be taken as part of the UB’s integration plan on Catalan language and culture for the period 2022-2026. Some of the plan’s initiatives in the current academic year include free Catalan courses for students, support to gain accreditation in Catalan for teaching and research staff, and a focus on bolstering the activities of CATclub and the UB’s language exchange service, which both seek to help mobility students in the pursuit of competence and confidence in their use of the Catalan language.
From May to July in the lead-up to the new academic year, the Ramon Llull Institute ran preparation courses for students at a number of the universities that make up the university network for Catalan studies abroad. The institutions invited to take part include: the Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Bologna, the University of Turin, the University of Naples Federico II, the University of Lisbon, the University of Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès, the Free University of Berlin, the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University of Granada. In the academic year 2022-2023, the aim is now to expand the Catalan preparation courses on offer at origin and increase the number of universities that take part.
After arrival at the UB, any students participating in a mobility programme can enrol in low-level courses in Catalan that are free of charge for the year. In the first half of September, the number of students who enrolled in intensive Catalan courses stood at 222, which is three times greater than last year. In addition, any student who arrives at the UB later in the year can also find appropriate courses.
In these cases, however, the dean of the student’s faculty will send a letter with information about available Catalan courses. As noted above, another activity that falls under the new plan is a campaign to bolster the direct accreditation of UB staff who already have level C1. At the same time, teaching and research staff will be offered free courses to reach level C1 in the academic year 2022-23, and there will be four calls for staff to obtain accreditation at level C1.
These are only some of the initial activities in the plan, which will be rolled out over the next five years and pursue specific targets for each group in the UB community. According to Marta Juncadella, acting head of Language Services, "the plan has been designed based on the prior experience of Language Services over many years: entry-level Catalan courses, a language exchange service, the CATClub, and so on. As part of the plan, these activities were put into motion, expanded and reinforced, and, in this sense, the plan is very ambitious. In addition, there will also be actions aimed at other groups, such as promoting the accreditation of teaching and research staff at level C1 and giving a more personalized welcome to students from particular groups, such as students of Chinese origin.
Jordi Matas, the Vice-Rector for Institutional Relations, Communication and Language Policy, explains that "for the first time, the University of Barcelona has a linguistic and cultural reception plan, approved by the Governing Council, that balances the demands of fully integrating into academic life members of the university community from outside the Catalan linguistic area and preserving the linguistic rights of the local community". More broadly, he goes on, "the plan to strengthen the Catalan language across the university and research system, overseen by the Catalan Ministry for Research and Universities and approved by the rectors of the Catalan universities in June, establishes the requirement for Catalan universities to operate linguistic and cultural reception plans to ensure that Catalan remains the primary language in the activities of universities and research centres"."
Key messages like "be international, speak Catalan" and "the adventure begins with the language" can be read these days on flyers that are being distributed to each and every one of the UB’s faculties. The slogans also appear on the University’s website and its social media. The aim is to spread the new integration plan on Catalan language and culture among the entire University community so that the UB’s teaching and research staff, administrative and service staff, and students can learn more about it and join in the effort as active participants.