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Arabic language and Islamic Studies: who studies Arabic and how can these skills be used at university and beyond?This work was undertaken in 2011-12 as the result of successful competitive bidding for research funds from the subject centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS). Learning a modern foreign language in UK has declined, yet the learning of Arabic is rising. Furthermore HEFCE designates Arabic as a Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subject (SIVS). This is important as it implies greater resources and support for Arabic courses. Although Classical Arabic previously had a code, the SIVS status of Arabic has increased its visibility and has led to four new codes for Arabic Language Studies, Modern Standard Arabic and related subjects in HESA’s latest JACS 3 listing (September 2011). We hypothesised that there is more Arabic language interest and competence among Islamic Studies students than is currently apparent in the university sector and in the independent Muslim institution sector, and found persuasive evidence for our hypothesis: moreover, we found that if the Arabic experience is neither assessed nor accredited this may represent missed career opportunities for such students. We explored possible relationships between students’ prior Arabic competence and Arabic language courses at Islamic Studies and other departments within UK universities. This study recognises the significance of Arabic language studies that students undertake in Muslim institutions such as Darul Ulooms, Madaris (singular madrassa), Muslim schools and Muslim HE colleges. It suggests that collaborations between Muslim institutions and universities could lead to cross fertilisation of curricula and pedagogy and staff exchanges. Furthermore, recognising students’ prior learning of Arabic could be beneficial to students, who would have options to enhance their skills and career opportunities, and also to universities who would have access to an increased cohort of potential students.
How to build bridges between universities and Muslim colleges in Britain with partnerships and curriculaWithin Britain there are demands for better, more inclusive understanding of Islam and the West. Internationally there are major changes afoot in the Arab world and it is likely that these changes will have a significant impact on British Muslims, who hold loyalties to the umma (the world wide Muslim community) as well as their allegiances to Britain. It is difficult to predict what form this impact will take, but all the more necessary to ensure that proper channels for inter-community and interfaith dialogue and debate are open. Over the last five years we have worked on three approaches to improving practical understanding in British higher education between Islamic and secular cultures; first, looking at partnerships between Muslim colleges and mainstream universities (Mukadam et al 2010); secondly, working with Muslim women to develop modules that can be taught within mainstream courses (Cheruvallil-Contractor and Scott-Baumann 2011) and thirdly, investigating the health of Arabic teaching in Britain (Scott-Baumann and Cheruvallil-Contractor 2012).