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The value of co-curricular activity for students on degree courses is uncontroversial. And we know language learning requires engagement with learning beyond the time spent in language class. The nature of Universities, and degree courses at universities, however, means that it is often difficult for language resource centres to ensure that their programme of activity intersects with degree programming in a way that is appropriate, effective and sustainable.
Highlighting both difficulties and innovations, we consider some of the affordances created for both the Language Centre and our students at the University of Leeds as a number of the strategic plans converged to allow for changes to structures, processes and practices. For illustration, we contrast two activities that work well (PowerPoint Karaoke and Conversation Club) with one that didn’t (Peer Learning). In doing so we discuss variables which contributed to their levels of success, including communication, visibility, stakeholders, physical and programme structures and resourcing.
We explore the question of resource by looking more closely at the approach taken to Language Advising, showing how changes in how these activities are staffed plays a crucial role in integrating co-curricular activity. We argue that the tension between pragmatism and intellectual idealism is a useful and healthy one, supporting a perspective in which institutional structures are seen to exist in order to facilitate education, encouraging academic and pedagogical conversations across the University, while offering opportunities for enhanced development and education, not only for students but also for language tutors.