Christ Church hosts Whitehall policy workshop on languages research

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Senior Research Fellow at Christ Church and the Faculty of Classics hosted a workshop in Oxford for policy officials and analysts from the Department for Education and the cross-Whitehall languages group to explore academic-policy collaboration.

Building on Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson's role as Policy Leader for the Humanities Division and her existing successful policy partnerships with the curriculum policy team at the Department for Education (DfE), the whole-day workshop for around 40 people enabled researchers to understand how the DfE develops languages curriculum policy and incorporates academic expertise and evidence.

Since 2020, Dr Holmes-Henderson's research has helped shape Government policy on classical languages education provision and a £4 million investment was announced in July 2021 to expand Latin teaching in state-maintained schools.

Funded by Dr Holmes-Henderson’s ESRC IAA grant and supported by the Oxford Policy Engagement Network, the event gave researchers insight into how civil servants across government learn and use foreign languages in their policymaking work.

Researchers at all career stages attended, from the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, the Faculty of English, the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics and but also beyond the Humanities Division, from the Department of Education and the Saïd Business School.

The workshop explored current policy priorities and evidence needs in Whitehall, and gave researchers the opportunity to learn more about becoming ‘policy-engaged’.

"This was a brilliant event that allowed policy-makers and researchers a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and thoughts together."


"I am following up with 3 academics on potential work we can take forward together on ‘modern’ languages – which is exactly the objective we were hoping to achieve from the day."


"Very useful event. Something I think the DfE and other government departments should be doing a lot more of. Hoping to attend many more of these and will be proactive in engaging with academics."


"Pioneering, valuable event: thank you!"


"So interesting to bring a wide range of stakeholders together for discussion. I learned a lot that will inform my understanding and work moving forward."


Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson and delegates from the workshop in Tom Quad

By bringing a wider range of academics into policy dialogues, the event identified several potential new collaborative opportunities.