On my first day in post as Professor and Head of Modern Languages and Cultures at Liverpool, I can’t help thinking back almost exactly twenty-five years to my first day as a seventeen-year-old undergraduate student in Modern Languages.

Professor Matthew Philpotts arrives at the University of Liverpool

Professor Matthew Philpotts arrives at the University of Liverpool

Over the next few years – not only at university but also during memorable (and sometimes difficult to remember…) times in Paris, Hamburg, and Berlin – I learnt lessons that have stayed with me for life. I learnt to understand and speak fluent French and German, of course, but I also learnt self-reliance, independence of mind, and an appreciation of a world that was open, multilingual and multicultural. I learnt not to accept things at face value, but to be sceptical and enquiring, to solve problems practically and creatively, and from a perspective that viewed the world through three different languages and their associated histories and cultures. To put things simply, I learnt to think.

It’s our job always to give others the opportunity to learn to think

It’s an exciting time to become Head of MLC, as we look to build on the successes of the last few years that have confirmed Liverpool as one of the leading centres in the UK for research and teaching in modern languages and cultures. In so many ways, the role of universities has changed over the last twenty-five years, and we’ll need to be flexible and responsive to ensure that our work always remains relevant, that we train graduates whose multilingual and transcultural skills make them valuable as citizens and employees. But one thing will never change. It’s our job to ensure that our teaching, and the world-leading research that informs it, is always intellectually demanding and inspiring. That we always give others the opportunity to learn to think.