Research Articles

Higher Education's Contribution to the Maintenance and Revitalization of Minority Official Languages: The Cases of Wales and New Brunswick



The revitalization of the Welsh language through the education sector has been widely documented and applauded. This success is limited, however, by the poor provision of Welsh-medium higher education. Research was undertaken to examine the contribution that universities can make to maintaining and revitalizing minority official languages and the factors that affect implementation of this type of language planning. Canada has a long history of French-medium and bilingual provision, and its higher education system has similar roots to the British one. The minority French-speaking population of the province of New Brunswick is roughly similar in proportion and distribution to Wales's Welsh-speaking population. Having established a dedicated French-medium university in the 1960s, New Brunswick provided a tried and tested alternative model of provision. Elite interviews were carried out with key players in minority-language-medium higher education in the two locations, some of the findings from which having been included below.The article is part of a larger study that examined the macro, meso and institutional levels, but this article concentrates on the meso-level language planning and policies of the New Brunswick Provincial Government, and the Welsh Assembly Government in terms of their actual or potential impact on higher education in the two contexts. It draws on documentary research and on interviews conducted with officials and academics in Wales and in New Brunswick. Although both of these governments have a considerable amount of autonomy in relation to education and language, their activities do have to take account of macro-level Acts, Charters and laws and work within them. In this article the meso level also includes government-funded bodies that have particular responsibility for higher education, in particular funding councils that have authority over the resources needed to implement language policy and planning activities, and the language planning bodies that have been set up to oversee implementation.The main types of language planning taking place in this sector are categorized as:Status and corpus planning – terms that are widely used by sociolinguists to refer to the 'allocation and reallocation of functions of language in a speech community' (Cobarrubias, 1983: 41) and the development of orthography, structure and grammar of a language (Bourhis, 1984), respectively.Acquisition planning – planning to create language spread by increasing the number of speakers, particularly through the family and bilingual education (Baker, 2003: 93)Opportunity, use and incentive planning – relating particularly to language used at work, but also to expansion of its use within the community and leisure activities (Baker, 2003).


How to Cite:

Cann J., (2004) “Higher Education's Contribution to the Maintenance and Revitalization of Minority Official Languages: The Cases of Wales and New Brunswick”, Wales Journal of Education 13(1).