A University of Birmingham academic has been chosen by the Foreign Office to head a prestigious cross-cultural partnerships project.

Dr Simon Green, of the Institute for German Studies (IGS), is to chair the UK-German Youth Links Initiative.

The initiative, which builds on and extends existing activities by organisations such as the British Council, aims to combat a perceived drop in enthusiasm for learning German.

"Both the British and German Governments are aware that language learning in Britain has been under pressure and that this has had a negative effect on the level of knowledge about Germany in the UK," said Dr Green.

"The initiative aims to counter this by re-energising youth links, especially via thematic projects on issues such as the environment. Fortunately, there is already quite a lot of this kind of activity going on outside the traditional format of school exchanges, which is very encouraging.”

Despite a longer-term trend away from language learning in the UK, there are still many points of cultural overlap, especially in areas such as economics, said Dr Green.

"Obviously, we would like to persuade more students to learn German, but we are realistic. The really important point is that greater knowledge about Germany, as our most important strategic and business partner in Europe, is vital.

"One of my priorities will be to stress this broader context, otherwise there is a risk that young British people will not develop essential knowledge about European countries."

For more information, please contact the Press Office, University of Birmingham, 0121 415 8134.