4.5 Conclusion and recommendations

Judged by the participation of European CL researchers at major conferences in the field, the European CL community is in a healthy state.  Having benefited from subventions under national and EU research programmes, many universities and research centres have participated in prominent research projects and will doubtlessly continue to do so under the Fifth Framework.

However, education in CL has benefited from progress in CL research only in some fields and at some places.  On a European scale, the educational institutions offering CL presently do not have the capacity to satisfy our future society's needs for building competence in this field.

Therefore, we wish to emphatically state that larger coordinated efforts are needed to attract larger student numbers, bundle scarce teaching competencies, develop innovative pedagogical resources and promote mobility through international recognition of credits and commonly agreed degree requirements.

The role that CL plays in new applications such as personal communication devices will increase, as will its links to speech and other modalities such as vision.  Whilst focusing on all these applications, it is important that CL does not forget that theory is also important and we would hope the balance between theory and practice is always there.  Old barriers between the humanities and science/engineering must be lowered as engineers see the need for more linguistics and phonetics in their systems and humanists see the usefulness of engineering for testing their ideas and theories.  Also, general linguistics and language studies should start integrating CL modules into their curricula to bring methodological advances to these fields and enhance their usability.

Relations between CL environments and industry have been somewhat less close than those in the area of speech processing.  The latter has in the past few years roused a strong industrial interest for real-world applications, but interest in CL is again rising.  CL will be able to forge more links to industry through its allies in speech processing and this will often be the way placements are found for CL students in industry.

Links between education and research will become more important as students will more and more need to use tools and platforms resulting from research but also results from student projects can feed back into research.  Also, in this fast changing field it lifelong learning will be important where teachers will be able to keep abreast of the latest developments.  The summer schools and courses organized by ELSNET, FOLLI and others are very useful in this regard.  In the future, links between education and research need to be increased, for instance through the involvement of learned societies like the EACL in educational matters through international special interest groups.

There will be a role for CL as part of new interdisciplinary international degrees like the proposed European Master's Degree in Language and Speech.  Nevertheless, the CL community may also be interested in establishing international degrees in CL in its own right.  If this happens, then certification and accreditation will be important, as it has been for the Master's in Language and Speech in which ESCA and EACL are involved.

Since the development of CL teaching materials is costly, while at the same time the pedagogical and technical demands are becoming higher and higher, internationally funded RTD programmes should continue to support projects for the development of advanced teaching tools for CL.  Such tools will in turn be highly dependent on the results of advanced CL research.  Future research projects in CL should be explicitly required to make their results available for educational reuse.

At the level of the institution, group work and project-based education should become more prevalent in CL and  CAL tools should be made available to their students.  Teaching staff should be increased and freed to participate in coordinated activities that enhance the students' learning experiences and the value of their qualifications.  At the same time, institutions for higher education should consider open and distance learning schemes and life-long learning in CL.  Implementation of all these recommendations is clearly dependent on an increase of highly competent teaching staff at institutions offering CL.

Finally, we recommend that reforms in CL education not be limited to the level of higher education.  In order to attract new students to the field, it is necessary to initiate wide preparatory measures at other levels of education.  Unfortunately, language and grammar teaching in schools is often still based on old-fashioned concepts.  Awareness raising and competence raising measures in secondary education can for instance take the form of job orientation with respect to the language industries and the integration of NLP tools in grammar teaching and foreign language teaching.

We believe that it will be necessary to follow these recommendations in order to build up the level of competence needed in order for society not to drown in massive information streams in a multilingual world.