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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 31, 2022

Both necessary and irrelevant: political economy and linguistic injustice of English in higher education in Kazakhstan

Bridget Goodman ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Assel Kambatyrova


Since the early 2000s, the government of Kazakhstan has been promoting educational reforms in higher education including introducing English-medium instruction (EMI), trilingual education (education in Kazakh, Russian, and English), and requirements of students and faculty to publish in impact factor. Within this context, the purpose of this paper is to use the lenses of political economy and linguistic justice to interpret interview data from students, faculty, and administrators of six Kazakhstani universities implementing trilingual education. These data show that some stakeholders believe English is the language of science, and it is therefore necessary to read, study, and publish in English. Competing voices argue that privileging English will lead to a loss of knowledge from local scholars who are not proficient in English. The data indicate that stakeholders believe the pursuit of EMI and English academic publishing may achieve the goals of global competitiveness and economic development under a political lens, but at a cost to the linguistic justice of languages other than English and speakers of those languages.

Corresponding author: Bridget Goodman, Graduate School of Education, Nazarbayev University, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, E-mail:

Funding source: Nazarbayev University

Award Identifier / Grant number: 090118FD5305


The authors thank research team members Sulushash Kerimkulova, Andrey Chsherbakov, Jason Sparks, Serikbolsyn Tastanbek, Murat Baltabayev, and Dastan Kapashev for their contributions to this study. The authors also thank Patrick Liu of Swarthmore College for his contributions, and the reviewers and editors of the special issue for their constructive feedback.

  1. Research funding: The research presented in this paper was supported by the Nazarbayev University Faculty Development Competitive Grant 090118FD5305, “Development of students’ multilingual competence in EMI postgraduate research programs”.


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Received: 2021-07-15
Accepted: 2022-03-07
Published Online: 2022-08-31
Published in Print: 2022-09-27

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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