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

New understandings of the rise of English as a medium of instruction in higher education: the role of key performance indicators and institutional profiling

Anna Kristina Hultgren EMAIL logo and Robert Wilkinson

Abstract

The rise of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) has prompted concerns over linguistic injustice, educational disadvantage, societal inequality and epistemic homogenization. As EMI tends to generate heated debates, its drivers need to be better understood. Borrowing conceptual frameworks from political science, this article proposes a new understanding of the drivers of EMI, pointing to the introduction of new steering tools in the 1980s to govern Europe’s higher education institutions. Conducting Process Tracing in a Dutch university, and drawing on document analysis and interviews with nine “elite participants” – Ministers of Education, University Rectors, Members of the University Executive Board, Faculty Deans and Programme Leaders – we argue that the very first EMI programme at our case university may be traced back to a set of governance reforms in the Dutch higher education sector that introduced key performance indicators and institutional profiling. Responding to calls for linguists to engage with the political economy, we identify previously under-illuminated links between political processes and EMI. We conclude that close attention to the political economy is key to understanding the rise of EMI, and more generally language shift, and ultimately to tackling linguistic injustice that may follow in its wake.


Corresponding author: Anna Kristina Hultgren, School of Languages and Applied Linguistics, The Open University, Walton Hall, Stuart Hall Building, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK, E-mail:

Funding source: UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship

Award Identifier / Grant number: MR/T021500/1

  1. Research funding: This research was funded by UK Research and Innovation under a Future Leaders Fellowship (grant reference: MR/T021500/1).

References

Beach, Derek & Rasmus Brun Pedersen. 2019. Process-tracing methods: Foundations and guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.10.3998/mpub.10072208Search in Google Scholar

Bhaskar, Roy. 2016. Enlightened common sense: The philosophy of critical realism. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315542942Search in Google Scholar

Block, David. 2022. The dark side of EMI?: A telling case for questioning assumptions about EMI in HE. Educational Linguistics 1(1). 82–107. https://doi.org/10.1515/eduling-2021-0007.Search in Google Scholar

Block, David. 2018. Political economy and sociolinguistics: Neoliberalism, inequality and social class. London: Bloomsbury.Search in Google Scholar

Block, David. 2017. Political economy in applied linguistics research. Language Teaching 50(1). 32–64. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0261444816000288.Search in Google Scholar

de Boer, Harry & Frans van Vught. 2016. Higher education governance in The Netherlands: From a Janus-head to a Trimurti. In Nico Cloete, Leo Goedegebuure, Åse Gornitzka, Jens Jungblutand & Bjørn Stensaker (eds.), Pathways trough higher education research: A Festschrift in honour of Peter Maassen, 25–32. Oslo: University of Oslo.Search in Google Scholar

de Boer, Harry & Jon File. 2009. Higher Education governance reforms across Europe. Brussels: European Centre for Strategic Management of Universities.Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Burton. 2004. Sustaining change in universities: Continuities in case studies and concepts. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Burton. 1998. Creating entrepreneurial universities. Oxford: Pergamon-Elsevier.Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Burton. 1983. The higher education system: Academic organization in cross-national perspective. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.10.1525/9780520340725Search in Google Scholar

De Costa, Peter I., Curtis Green-Eneix & Wendy Li. 2021. Problematizing language policy and practice in EMI and transnational higher education: Challenges and possibilities. Special issue of Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 44(2). 115–128. https://doi.org/10.1075/aral.00036.edi.Search in Google Scholar

Dexter, Lewis Anthony. 2006. Elite and Specialized Interviewing. Conchester: European Consortium for Political Research.Search in Google Scholar

Dimova, Slobodanka, Anna Kristina Hultgren & Christian Jensen (eds.). 2015. English-medium instruction in European higher education. Berlin: De Gruyter.10.1515/9781614515272Search in Google Scholar

Dougherty, Kevin J. & Rebecca S. Natow. 2020. Performance-based funding for higher education: How well does neoliberal theory capture neoliberal practice? Higher Education 80. 457–478. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00491-4.Search in Google Scholar

Duchêne, Alexandre. 2020. Multilingualism: An insufficient answer to sociolinguistic inequalities. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 263. 91–97. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2020-2087.Search in Google Scholar

Duchêne, Alexandre & Monica Heller (eds.). 2013. Language in late capitalism: Pride and profit. New York: Routledge.10.4324/9780203155868Search in Google Scholar

Gal, Susan. 1989. Language and political economy. Annual Review of Anthropology 18. 345–367. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.18.100189.002021.Search in Google Scholar

Harvey, David. 2007. A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jongbloed, Ben & Carlo Salerno. 2003. De Bekostiging van het Universitaire Onderwijs en Onderzoek in Nederland: Modellen, Thema’s en trends. Enschede: Center for Higher Education Policy Studies Universiteit Twente.Search in Google Scholar

Kelly-Holmes, Helen & Gerlinde Mautner (eds.). 2010. Language and the market – language and globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1007/978-0-230-29692-3Search in Google Scholar

Klijn, Annemieke. 2016. Het Maastrichts experiment. Over de uitdagingen van een jonge universiteit 1976–2016, 186–188. Nijmegen/Maastricht: Vantilt/Maastricht University.Search in Google Scholar

Krüger, Karsten, Martí Parellada, Daniel Samoilovich & Andreée Sursock (eds.). 2018. Governance reforms in European university systems: The case of Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Portugal. New York: Springer.10.1007/978-3-319-72212-2Search in Google Scholar

McElhinny, Bonnie. 2015. Language and political economy. In Nancy Bonvillain (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of linguistic anthropology. Routledge handbooks online, 279–300. New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Meertens, Ferdinand. 2011. Hoger Onderwijs Autonomie en Kwaliteit (HOAK) nota 25 jaar later: Reden tot tevredenheit? Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsrecht en Onderwijsbeleid. 61–66.Search in Google Scholar

Minassians, Henrik P. 2015. Network governance and performance measures: Challenges in collaborative design of hybridized environments. International Review of Public Administration 20(4). 335–352. https://doi.org/10.1080/12294659.2015.1088689.Search in Google Scholar

Mitchell, Nic. 2021. 77% growth in English-taught programmes outside the ‘big four’. In University world news. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211207110915532 (accessed 7 December 2021).Search in Google Scholar

Neave, Guy. 2012. The evaluative state, institutional autonomy and re-engineering higher education in Western Europe. London: Palgrave.10.1057/9780230370227Search in Google Scholar

O’Regan, John P. 2021. Global English and political economy. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315749334Search in Google Scholar

Park, Joseph Sung-Yul & Lionel Wee. 2012. Markets of English linguistic capital and language policy in a globalizing world. New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Ritzen, Jo. 2004. Across the bridge: Towards an international university. In Robert Wilkinson (ed.), Integrating content and language: Meeting the challenge of a multilingual higher education, 28–40. Maastricht: Universitaire Pers Maastricht.Search in Google Scholar

Shohamy, Elana. 2012. A critical perspective on the use of English as a medium of instruction at Universities. In Aintzane Doiz, David Lasagabaster & Juan Manuel Sierra (eds.), English-medium instruction at universities: Global challenges, 196–213. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781847698162-014Search in Google Scholar

Shore, Chris & Susan Wright. 1999. Audit culture and anthropology: Neo-liberalism in British higher education. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5(4). 557–575. https://doi.org/10.2307/2661148.Search in Google Scholar

Supiot, Alain. 2015. Governance by numbers. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

Trow, Martin. 2006. Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WWII. In James J. F. Forest & Philip G. Altbach (eds.), International handbook of higher education, 243–280. Netherlands: Dordrecht.10.1007/978-1-4020-4012-2_13Search in Google Scholar

Universiteiten van Nederland. 2022a. Internationale studenten in het wetenschappelijk onderwijs. https://www.universiteitenvannederland.nl/f_c_internationale_studenten.html (accessed 8 January 2022).Search in Google Scholar

Universiteiten van Nederland. 2022b. Internationalisation is crucial to a good university. https://www.universiteitenvannederland.nl/en_GB/voor-een-goede-universiteit-is-internationalisering-cruciaal.html (accessed 8 January 2022).Search in Google Scholar

Wächter, Bernd & Friedhelm Maiworm. 2014. English-taught programmes in European higher education. Brussels: ACA.Search in Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Robert. 2016. Does internationalization promote multilingualism? A Dutch university study. Baltic Journal of English Language, Literature and Culture 6. 108–123.10.22364/BJELLC.06.2016.08Search in Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Robert. 2014. Contrasting attitudes towards a bilingual institutional language policy under internationalization. Fachsprache 36(1–2). 11–30. https://doi.org/10.24989/fs.v36i1-2.1311.Search in Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Robert. 2013. English-medium instruction at a Dutch university: Challenges and pitfalls. In Aintzane Doi, David Lasagabaster & Juan Manuel Sierra (eds.), English-medium instruction at universities: Global challenges, 3–24. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781847698162-005Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2021-07-19
Accepted: 2022-06-24
Published Online: 2022-08-31
Published in Print: 2022-09-27

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 4.12.2022 from frontend.live.degruyter.dgbricks.com/document/doi/10.1515/ijsl-2021-0082/html
Scroll Up Arrow