Uncovering English-Medium Instruction

Glocal Issues in Higher Education

by Branka Drljača Margić (Author) Irena Vodopija-Krstanović (Author)
Monographs X, 142 Pages

Table Of Content

← viii | ix →


We would like to extend our profound gratitude to the students, teachers and institutions that graciously agreed to be part of this project, especially to the teachers who opened their classrooms for observation.

Our sincere thanks also go to Dr Robert Wilkinson and Professor Josep Maria Cots for their support of this book.

We are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers at Peter Lang for their insightful comments, to Christabel Scaife for her help with publishing matters, and to Dr James J. Kimble for his help with the proofs.

Appreciation is likewise due to Walter de Gruyter GmbH for their permission to use copyrighted material.

Finally, we are deeply indebted to our families for their encouragement and continued support throughout our efforts to complete this project. ← ix | x →

← x | 1 →


Staking the EMI territory

The dynamics and intensification of exchange in the world have given rise to the need for a common language, and it is English that has become the world’s lingua franca. The presence of English in different contexts and the multitude of users of the language can be well described using Kachru’s seminal model of three concentric circles of English: the Inner Circle, referring to the ‘traditional cultural and linguistic bases of English’; the Outer Circle, representing ‘the institutionalized non-native varieties’ used in formerly colonized countries; and the Expanding Circle, including ‘the regions where the performance varieties of the language are used essentially in EFL contexts [and] lack official status’ (Kachru 1996: 356–357). The fact that there is a considerably larger number of speakers of English as a second/foreign language has contributed significantly to the spread and status of English (McKay and Bokhorst-Heng 2008) and has also changed the ownership of the language (Widdowson 1994). Although ‘native speakers may feel the language “belongs” to them […] it will be those who speak English as a second or foreign language who will determine its world future’ (Graddol 1997: 10). Today, English is widely used as a lingua franca among speakers of different first-language backgrounds in different contexts (Seidlhofer 2011).

The extensive use of English is said to uphold the process of globalization, which, in turn, promotes the spread of English and entrenches its status (Graddol 2006). From this point it follows that the process of globalization would be inconceivable without English (language proficiency) as a prerequisite for access to the world market and the exchange of information on an international scale. The far-reaching use of English has come to play a pivotal role in multiple domains, such as business, the media and (higher) education. According to Graddol (2006: 74), ‘[o]ne of the most important drivers of global English has been the globalization ← 1 | 2 → of higher education’, where it is increasingly used for communication, collaboration, academic research, project development, mobility and teaching (Hultgren, Jensen and Dimova 2015). Adding to this momentum are ‘the policy-based responses that educational institutions adopt as a result of the impact of globalization’, which have been affecting higher education (HE) institutions at an unprecedented scale (Naidoo 2006: 324). Specifically, ‘[c]hanges in government policies and the social and economic context within which universities operate have resulted in increasing pressure for them to attract more international students and to internationalise their curricula’ (Leask 2001: 389). In other words, international, economic and educational aspirations have generated the need to introduce English-taught programmes (cf. Björkman 2010; Coleman 2006) and have prompted ‘[p]olicy makers [to] consider EMI as a mechanism for internationalising their educational offer, creating opportunities for students to join a global academic and business community’ (Dearden 2014: 16).

The internationalization of European HE, while hardly a novelty (Healey 2008; Mauranen 2010), has been further advanced in the last twenty years by European Union’s (EU) commitment to political and economic consolidation (Altbach and Knight 2007). This increased integration of HE has initiated new development in the landscape of universities and has led to the creation of a ‘borderless European higher education space’ (Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2011: 347), both of which are directly related to the Bologna Process (Bologna) and the spread of English (Phillipson 2006). The Bologna Agreement, signed in 1999, has laid the groundwork for the creation of a harmonized European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by establishing comparable degrees, common procedures for academic recognition and an effective instrument for allocating and transferring European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) points. The EHEA has helped to transform its universities into global institutions (Dafouz and Smit 2014), and the standardization of HE through readable degrees has significantly facilitated mobility and promoted the use of English as the lingua academica (Mauranen 2010). It is worth mentioning that Bologna endorses a diversity of languages and cultures, and its flagship European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) programme does not require the use of English. Nevertheless, Bologna is ‘largely ← 2 | 3 → subordinated to the market forces that strengthen English’ (Phillipson 2015: 27) and thus promotes its spread and an increase in programmes taught in the language (Kirkpatrick 2011). In view of the fact that English as the global lingua franca is underpinned by economic processes (Phillipson 2015) and that it has become the most frequently taught language in the world (Eurydice 2012), its penetration in HE cannot be avoided. The use of English in education, which is steering universities towards market-oriented HE (Coleman 2006), ‘is seen as the only route towards accomplishing the Bologna goals’ (Ljosland 2007: 399).

The benefits of learning English are manifold, the most common being that it promotes success (Coulmas 2005; Niño-Murcia 2003). Kachru (1986: 1) puts forward the view that ‘knowing English is like possessing the fabled Alladin’s lamp which permits one to open, as it were, the linguistic gates [and] provides linguistic power’. As knowledge of English has become a basic skill, educational incentives to learn English have been promoted by governments and educational policies (McKay and Bokhorst-Heng 2008), thus increasing the drive to learn the language ‘at different levels from the global to the classroom level’ (Hultgren, Jensen and Dimova 2015: 5). Given the widespread need for English, questions are now being raised whether traditional foreign language learning is sufficient for developing the language competences for today’s world (cf. Heras and Lasagabaster 2015). Consequently, ‘[t]here appears to be a fast-moving worldwide shift, in non-anglophone countries, from English being taught as a foreign language to English being the medium of instruction (EMI) for academic subjects’ (Dearden 2014: 4).

HE institutions’ quest for internationalization, coupled with the general call for proficiency in English, has caused the language to be increasingly used as an academic language and the language of instruction in universities located in non-Anglophone environments. The relentless aspiration to offer courses in English in non-English-speaking contexts, as Crystal (2003) explains, was motivated by advances in international mobility and a rapidly growing foreign student body. In view of the fact that ‘English-speaking countries have asymmetrically dominated the internationalization market of higher education over the decades following the Second World War’ (McCambridge and Saarinen 2015: 292), English has become particularly ← 3 | 4 → important in the Expanding Circle countries (cf. Taguchi 2014a), where institutional competition for international visibility and ranking on a global scale has necessitated the implementation of English-medium instruction (EMI). The expansion of English into HE is a window of opportunity for universities from non-English-speaking countries (Cots, Lasagabaster and Garrett 2012). It can be said that the battle with high-ranking universities from Anglophone countries to gain a competitive advantage in the pursuit of international students has pushed universities to introduce curricula in English. The ‘educational arms race’ is on (Graddol 2006: 40), and the stakes are high as universities compete to recruit students (McKay and Bokhorst-Heng 2008). As a result, in the last two decades, universities in Europe have witnessed a sharp rise in EMI.

According to the Institute of International Education, in 2011, a large majority (79 per cent) of the 4,664 master’s programmes offered in English in non-English-speaking European countries were taught entirely in English, which is a significant acceleration since 2008 and 2002, when 1,500 and 560 master’s programmes in English were available, respectively (Brenn-White and van Rest 2012). Recent data show that ‘[t]he number of master’s programs taught entirely in English rose from 3,701 at the end of 2011 to 5,258 in June 2013, an increase of 42 per cent occurring in the remarkably short span of one and a half years’ (Brenn-White and Faethe 2013: 4). Looking at EMI in specific contexts in the EU, the Netherlands with its 946 master’s programmes in English is in the lead, followed by Germany (733) and Sweden (708) (Brenn-White and Faethe 2013). An analysis of the average number of English-taught master’s programmes offered per institution indicates that Denmark is at the forefront (20.4), followed by the Netherlands (19) and Sweden (18) (Brenn-White and Faethe 2013). In the last five years, EMI in Finland has increased by 50 per cent, totalling 261 programmes at the master’s level, and English has gained the status of a third official language at Aalto University (McCambridge and Saarinen 2015). Since 2011, France and Italy have also reported a rapid growth of 60 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively (Brenn-White and Faethe 2013). Pulcini and Campagna (2015) note that Italy now offers EMI in nearly half of its universities, mainly in the fields of economics and engineering. Spain has made significant advances in this respect as well, although in certain ← 4 | 5 → regions like Catalonia the presence of EMI is still rather low (Cots 2013). In Austria, politically motivated measures taken as ‘a reaction to global realities, such as the spread of English as the lingua franca of international cooperation and competition in higher education and industry’, have also prompted the introduction of EMI (Tatzl 2011: 252).

As for non-EU countries, a similar trend has been observed as academia responds to the universal need for English and internationalization by accelerating offerings in English-medium programmes. One such example is Turkey, where government policies strongly encourage the implementation of EMI, and the number of universities offering courses and programmes in the country, as well as in North Cyprus, has been rising steadily (Arkin and Osam 2015). Although EMI is more prevalent in private universities, where it is offered in almost all institutions, the majority of public universities also conduct programmes in English (Selvi 2011). Likewise, in Korea, EMI is supported by the government, universities and student organizations, all of which believe that it will contribute significantly to the improvement of educational and research standards (Byun et al. 2011; Cho 2012). A similar trend is present in Japan, where in 1997 a government report stated that ‘Japanese higher education institutions must become “international centres of learning” to which students and scholars of the world are attracted’ (cited in Tsuneyoshi 2005: 67). The Japanese government is planning to introduce thirty-three undergraduate and 124 graduate English-only courses within a five-year period. It offers financial support to selected universities to create an academic environment that would cater for international students and offer opportunities for Japanese students to improve their English language proficiency (Taguchi 2014b). In like manner, at the turn of the century, the promotion of EMI began in China (Hu 2009), where the government undertook measures to promote universities by establishing programmes taught both in Chinese and English, with the aim of starting fifty new English-taught programmes every three years (Kuroda 2014). Taiwan is also pushing for EMI programmes to encourage ‘both domestic and international students to learn and interact with one another using English’ (Chen and Kraklow 2015: 47). Qatar, as well, has joined the EMI bandwagon by establishing overseas English-medium branch campuses of Western universities as a means of developing human ← 5 | 6 → capital and preparing students for international employment opportunities (Pessoa, Miller and Kaufer 2014). EMI is also widely present in Hong Kong, where the majority of universities, that is, six out of seven, are English-medium (Mahboob 2014). In Israel, ‘knowledge of English is recognised as a powerful, influential and highly desirable commodity’ (Inbar-Lourie and Donitsa-Schmitd 2013: 153), and some institutions offer prestigious programmes in English to attract international students (Shohamy 2014). Clearly, EMI has evolved into a glocal enterprise, as local academic institutions take on a global reach.

Croatia has invested effort in internationalizing its HE and promoting student/staff mobility. In 2005, Bologna was introduced at all institutions throughout the country, and Croatian HE joined the EHEA. However, the moderate pace of internationalization has resulted in few English-taught programmes. This circumstance indicates that the situation in Croatia has not undergone significant changes since Ammon and McConnell’s (2002) study, in which the authors documented that in Europe only Croatian, Greek, Italian, Swiss and Spanish institutions under the governance of the respective ministries did not offer entire programmes in English. Today, however, Spain, Switzerland and Italy rank among the top ten countries in Europe with the greatest number of English-taught master’s programmes (Brenn-White and van Rest 2012), while Croatia is still lagging behind. A case in point is the University of Rijeka (UNIRI), the second largest university in the country and one of the contexts investigated herein, which offers only one EMI programme, as of this writing.

While discussions on internationalization at UNIRI have emphasized the importance of increasing visibility, attracting an international student body and introducing English-taught programmes, until recently no systematic effort was made to internationalize curricula and promote EMI. The first research-based measures to internationalize study programmes were taken in 2013 with the launching of the Development of Study Programmes in English project, whose aims and impact are discussed in greater detail in chapter 3.

The first Croatian comprehensive study on EMI, integrating six research projects, is presented in this book. By combining multiple sources of data and various perspectives, it provides different angles on the complex ← 6 | 7 → picture of EMI and contributes to the debates on the position of English as the academic lingua franca. The broad aim of the book is to provide a holistic and critical understanding of EMI by drawing on theoretical and empirical insights. Specifically, the book discusses the perceived and experienced benefits and challenges posed by EMI, its linguistic and pedagogical implications as well as the measures that should be taken in order to respond to the challenges and to lay the foundation for continuous long-term quality assurance. It integrates the first Croatian study on EMI, in which Drljača Margić and Žeželić (2015)1 investigate the attitudes of UNIRI students towards EMI, and a study which canvasses the attitudes of UNIRI teachers towards instruction in English, conducted by Drljača Margić and Vodopija-Krstanović (2015).2 These two segments of research constitute the first part of the present two-stage study, which gives an outsider’s perspective on the possible implications of EMI by examining the attitudes of students and teachers who have not been engaged in it. In the second stage, we observe EMI in practice and examine the perspectives of teachers and students at an institution which has introduced a programme in English. Although the research presented here is an empirical study from a local academic context, its findings are globally applicable for context-specific problem solving in HE today.

The book comprises nine chapters. The present chapter provides an overview of the spread of English as a language of instruction and sheds light ← 7 | 8 → on the interrelatedness of the internationalization of HE and EMI. It also looks at EMI in a number of countries across the world where English is not used as a native language. The chapter closes with a roadmap for this book. Chapter 2 explains the reasons why universities implement instruction in English. By drawing on the relevant literature, it points out the strengths of EMI. To paint a realistic picture of the phenomenon, the chapter also carefully scrutinizes its (potential) challenges. Chapter 3, where the focus shifts to the Croatian context, investigates the steps that have been taken to promote the internationalization of HE and provides insights into the current situation regarding instruction in English. Here, a particular focus is placed on an EMI project. In the subsequent chapters, we present the methodology and analyse and discuss the findings of our study. Chapter 4 provides a detailed account of the methodology by describing the aims, research questions, research contexts, participants and research methods. We also describe the process of gaining access and related ethical concerns. The chapter closes with a discussion on the (possible) limitations of the study. The results of the research presented in chapter 5 show the perceived strengths, challenges, usefulness and feasibility of EMI, the requirements for its quality-based implementation and the participants’ willingness and self-perceived competence to undertake instruction in English. In this chapter, we report the findings of two questionnaire-based surveys, one carried out among teachers and another among students who have not been involved in EMI, and complement them with the data obtained from two focus group interviews with teachers. Chapter 6 discusses the main findings by juxtaposing the two outlooks, highlighting the salient topics and identifying the paradoxes. To describe EMI in practice and to offer better understanding of an insider’s viewpoint, chapter 7 reports the results obtained at an institution which has adopted EMI. Specifically, we present the information gathered from a questionnaire-based survey and interviews with the academic staff on their perspectives, feelings and experiences gained from EMI in practice as well as on their perception of the differences between teaching in English and in Croatian. Furthermore, we report the results of two questionnaire-based surveys investigating students’ attitudes towards EMI, their emotions and experiences as well as reasons for (not) enrolling on an English-taught programme. The first survey was conducted among ← 8 | 9 → students in an EMI programme, while the second involved students in a Croatian-taught programme. Here, the role of language in EMI is also canvassed as well as issues related to language policy. The last part of chapter 7 deals with the linguistic and pedagogical characteristics observed in English-taught classes in relation to their Croatian counterparts. In chapter 8, we discuss the main findings by incorporating the data obtained from various sources. To close, in the concluding chapter (9), we compare the main findings that emerged from the six research projects presented in the book and consider some (future) implications of EMI. We also appeal for further research on the topic, better communication among stakeholders, fuller provision of information and a more reflective stance towards EMI.

This contribution from Croatia, we believe, will further the academic community’s knowledge of EMI by providing a systematic and critical understanding of instruction in English that is grounded in empirical data and in socially situated research-based insights. By looking at how the policy of internationalization affects education, how it influences attitudes and impacts stakeholders, we integrate multifaceted perspectives to offer a wide coverage of EMI and provide a balanced representation of views. In this respect, we expect that the book will be of use in other academic contexts, so that they can better capitalize on the strengths of instruction in English and avoid/overcome the challenges and pitfalls of its implementation. We also hope that it will make a valuable contribution to comparative analyses of attitudes towards the role and distribution of English and national languages in academia. Finally, we trust that this research will set the foundation for the development of (language) support in EMI and for the establishment of an explicit language and education policy.

Before moving on to the next chapter, we would like to emphasize three points relevant to this book. First, throughout the book we use the term English-medium instruction, as it is widespread in the literature. However, we agree with van der Walt’s (2013) point of view that the term language of learning and teaching (LoLT) would be more appropriate. Medium of instruction suggests a rather teacher-centred orientation focusing on the transmission of content, while the latter phrase better conveys the dynamic and interactive nature of teaching and learning, and subsumes the idea that teachers may also experience a learning curve and improve with practice ← 9 | 10 → (cf. Hellekjær 2007). Second, in order to preserve the anonymity of the participants, certain identifying information has been removed. Third, the intention of this book is not to evaluate EMI, but rather to offer well-balanced critical perspectives on instruction in English by highlighting strengths, issues and drawbacks – all for the prime purpose of improving teaching and learning in EMI programmes and facilitating their future implementation.

1 Branka Drljača Margić & Tea Žeželić. 2015. The implementation of English-medium instruction in Croatian higher education: Attitudes, expectations and concerns. In Ramón Plo Alastrué & Carmen Pérez-Llantada (eds), English as a scientific and research language. English in Europe, 2, 311–332. Berlin/Boston, MA: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been used with the permission of Walter de Gruyter GmbH.

2 Branka Drljača Margić & Irena Vodopija-Krstanović. 2015. Introducing EMI at a Croatian university: Can we bridge the gap between global emerging trends and local challenges? In Slobodanka Dimova, Anna Kristina Hultgren & Christian Jensen (eds), English-medium instruction in European higher education. English in Europe, 3, 43–63. Berlin/Boston, MA: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been used with the permission of Walter de Gruyter GmbH.

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Reasons for introducing EMI and the ensuing challenges for universities

In recent years, EMI has emerged as a growing trend in tertiary education; that is, universities have increased the number of courses and programmes in English. This initiative is underpinned by the widespread belief that instruction in English contributes to the attainment of economic, cultural and educational gains. Conversely, universities which do not offer courses in English will not be able to compete on the educational market and will not have an international student body, thus risking being left out in the cold (cf. Björkman 2010; Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2011; Healey 2008).

One of the main reasons why universities are adopting a policy of internationalization is to modernize and to enhance their competitiveness, visibility and ranking position (Altbach and Knight 2007; Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2011; Hu 2009; Hughes 2008). Participation in the EMI scheme is used as an assessment criterion (Altbach and Knight 2007; Hu 2009) and can improve an institution’s international rankings and status both in local and international contexts (Hughes 2008; Wilkinson 2013). To date, the international education scene has been dominated by institutions from English-speaking countries (Hughes 2008), for which programmes in English are a ‘global export industry’ (Sakurai, McCall-Wolf and Kashima 2010: 176). If English is the modern currency in international education, then EMI must be adopted in non-English-speaking countries if they are to compete on equal footing with English-speaking countries on the receiving market (Björkman 2010; Hughes 2008).

Language has become a critical factor in student selection of HE destinations (UNESCO 2006; Wilkinson and Walsh 2015), and a vital prerequisite for attracting more international students is a programme offering in English. In other words, central to academic internationalization are ← 11 | 12 → student mobility and the presence of English (Lasagabaster, Cots and Mancho-Barés 2013). The use of various languages in European HE seems to be a major obstacle to mobility (Amaral and Magalhães 2004; Mehtap-Smadi and Hashemipour 2011). As an illustration, in Erasmus, a ‘lack of study programs in English in hosting institution[s]’ is a barrier to student participation (Souto-Otero et al. 2013: 72) and to ‘social and intellectual mobility in the international arena’ (Taguchi 2014a: 89).

Cross-border mobility and the internationalization of HE institutions promote the intercultural dimension of education (Otten 2003; Soler-Carbonell 2015). A diverse student body from different linguacultural backgrounds ‘means that the institutions are naturally sights of intercultural communication’ (Turner 2011: 23), and participation in the internationalization process fosters valuable multicultural experiences (Bergknut 2006) and helps develop intercultural understanding (Altbach and Knight 2007; Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2013a; Lasagabaster, Cots and Mancho-Barés 2013). In other words, the intercultural dimension of EMI is an undisputed asset, which enriches the classroom, sets the table for intercultural dialogue and acknowledges intercultural differences as a vital component of democratic societies (White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue 2008). Today, more than ever before, students have close contact with members of other cultures, and even those who do not participate in mobility schemes can experience ‘internationalization at home’ (McCambridge and Saarinen 2015: 295) and learn what it means to collaborate internationally and study in an intercultural context (cf. Beelen 2011). The presence of international students is central to creating an international and intercultural environment; however, in order to be able to integrate and socialize, students need to be mutually intelligible communicators across cultures. Their intercultural communicative competence is directly contingent on knowledge of a common language of intercultural contacts, which tends to be English used as a lingua franca (ELF) (Jenkins 2014).

In the context of current changes in HE, there is a general consensus that EMI prepares students from different L1 backgrounds to actively engage in globalization processes (Ammon and McConnell 2002; Tamtam et al. 2012; Tsuneyoshi 2005). This is particularly significant for students who speak a small national language and who would otherwise not be ← 12 | 13 → well prepared for the worldwide market (Coleman 2006; Ingvarsdóttir and Arnbjörnsdóttir 2015). One of the most compelling arguments for education in English is that the acquisition of both language and content, that is, ‘getting two for the price of one’ (Knapp 2011: 53), gives students a competitive advantage compared to those studying English as a foreign language (EFL), which may not be sufficient for working on the international scene (Dalton-Puffer 2011; Heras and Lasagabaster 2015; Knapp 2011). EMI fosters language acquisition because students are exposed to extensive input, which is a significant prerequisite for language learning (Krashen 1982; Long 1996; Swain 1995). In such classes, students acquire the language in naturalistic contexts, using it to manipulate authentic content and transmit information in real communicative situations (like they would in their L1) (DeKeyser 2000; Heras and Lasagabaster 2015; Lasagabaster 2008). In other words, with extensive exposure to foreign language input in meaningful communicative contexts, students acquire the language incidentally (Genesee 2006; Lo and Lo 2014), and through increased interaction, they produce more L2 and test their hypotheses about the language. Another argument is that these language learning situations provide more opportunities to learn, expand and integrate subject specific vocabulary as well as discourse in specific domains (Knapp 2011), thus enabling the learning of language items not covered in the traditional foreign language classroom. Because English is used to transmit information in authentic communicative situations, language learning takes place in a more relevant and efficient way (Heras and Lasagabaster 2015), which, in turn, enhances students’ positive attitudes towards language learning in general (Lasagabaster and Sierra 2009; Seikkula-Leino 2007).

A further point regarding education in English is that it provides greater employment opportunities. This benefit is directly attributed to ‘the power of the English language at this day and age, a language that a large number of learners seek to acquire given the belief that it will provide access to the central bastions of society and, on the other hand, the power and status associated with the prestige of universities that grant degrees and provide access to the workplace’ (Shohamy 2013: 201). In that sense, EMI may be seen as promoting equity, as (local) students gain competences that prepare them for international careers, which would otherwise not be ← 13 | 14 → accessible to many. It can also be seen as an investment in human capital (Pessoa, Miller and Kaufer 2014), and the young people who are educated through the medium of English can become ‘active and competitive participants in global trade and diplomacy’ (McKay 2014: 223). Central to these views is the assumption that linguistic choices have direct implications for one’s opportunities in life (Heller and Martin-Jones 2001).

In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, teachers can also profit from EMI in terms of engagement in a new socio-cultural and learning experience (cf. Taguchi 2014a). Specifically, student diversity and classes in English can stimulate their professional improvement and develop teaching competences. Such classes require a change in teaching approaches and a shift from a teacher-led style to a more interactive, dynamic classroom (Dearden 2014). In other words, EMI calls for the use of a more learner-centred collaborative pedagogy and a variety of scaffolding techniques (cf. Airey 2015; Santulli 2015). Besides, problem-based learning (Arends 2014), in which students take the key role, relieves teachers of the burden of producing ‘monological presentations’ in a language that is not their L1 (Cots 2013: 120). Through instruction in English, teachers also gain international visibility and recognition, as EMI not only enhances their participation in HE on a much wider scale but also strengthens their capacity for networking and supports the global dissemination of knowledge.

Another key point is that the increased visibility through EMI greatly benefits the institution as it is a way to secure additional income from international student fees (Healey 2008). Besides, in some contexts, EMI has become a requirement for government funding (Byun et al. 2011; Coleman 2006). As an illustration, in China, stimuli are offered for internationalization, and the Ministry of Education stipulated that one of the criteria for assessing an academic institution was the number of bilingual programmes offered, which should not be less than 50 per cent of the curriculum (Tollefson and Tsui 2014). Since 2015, funding of HE in Finland has been bracketed with internationalization (McCambridge and Saarinen 2015). Similarly, Japan has allocated substantial funds to thirty selected universities so as to ‘create an attractive environment for international students’ (Taguchi 2014b: 158). Another interesting case is that of Qatar, where educational subsidies from the government support free education ← 14 | 15 → for home students and loans for international students studying at branch campuses of distinguished Western universities (Pessoa, Miller and Kaufer 2014). EMI has also become an asset for private universities in Turkey (Selvi 2011).

In light of the discussion above, it would appear that EMI benefits all the stakeholders, that is, teachers, students and institutions. Let us now take a different perspective and critically analyse the challenges it (may) pose(s).

The rapid expansion of EMI is raising concerns about its negative implications for the quality of education (Costa and Coleman 2013; Lei and Hu 2014; Shohamy 2013; Wilkinson 2013). In many contexts, instruction in English was implemented hastily and without due deliberation on the possible side effects (cf. Hellekjær and Westergaard 2003).

When considering the challenges involved in EMI, (student) language has been identified, above all, as a potential impediment to its successful realization. The general-purpose English learned at school may not be sufficient for studying in the language (Evans and Morrison 2011). For one thing, it may not cultivate the appropriate skills for EMI and can lead to student unpreparedness for courses in English (Cots 2013; Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2011, 2013b; van Wyk 2014). This disadvantage can cause comprehension problems and impede academic attainment (Wilkinson and Walsh 2015). Furthermore, less proficient students are often reluctant to communicate in class and tend to ask and answer fewer questions when taught in English (Airey 2015; Airey and Linder 2006; Knapp 2011; Selvi 2011). Discourse style in content classes can thus be problematic, if closed-ended questions prevail and students produce minimal responses (Dalton-Puffer 2008). Also, students’ inability to fully take part in the educational process and to demonstrate their knowledge can increase anxiety and reduce motivation (Inbar-Lourie and Donitsa-Schmidt 2013; Kang 2012), which can have an adverse effect on their self-esteem and, ultimately, on their academic performance. Weaker students may not be able to fully ‘satisf[y] the English language literacy needs at their university’ and complete their assignments adequately (Mahboob 2014: 185). Besides, student problems with comprehension can cause teachers to reduce course coverage (Knapp 2011; Thøgersen and Airey 2011) or resort to the students’ first language while lecturing (Tong and Shi 2012). Finally, students’ fear ← 15 | 16 → that their inadequate language skills would impede their academic success may lead to an overall resistance to EMI (Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2013b; Drljača Margić and Žeželić 2015).

As for teachers in EMI, their modest language skills can have a negative effect on teaching (Ball and Lindsay 2013; Coleman 2006; Mauranen, Hynninen and Ranta 2010; Tange 2010; Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998). In the classroom, this problem can lead to course content being simplified and abridged (Airey 2015; Hu 2009; Kang 2012; Knapp 2011; Pulcini and Campagna 2015; Vinke 1995) and to insufficient time for illustration, summary, questions, comments and interruptions (Arkin and Osam 2015). Inadequate language skills can result in teachers asking fewer and simpler questions, which do not stimulate student participation or check student understanding. Their inadequate command of English can negatively influence student–teacher interaction and classroom dynamics (Shohamy 2013). For instance, when put on the spot, teachers can face difficulties carrying out tasks that ‘go beyond the scope of [their] preparation’ (Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998: 389); that is, they may not be able to explain content in different ways, discuss, elaborate and improvise (Klaassen 2001; Thøgersen and Airey 2011; Vinke 1995) or make jokes and tell anecdotes (Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998). Teachers in English-taught programmes tend to avoid a more learner-centred collaborative approach, probably out of fear that it can lead to a series of unexpected situations that they would not be able to handle because of their limited language flexibility (Macaro, Akincioglu and Dearden 2016; Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998). Furthermore, focusing too much attention on language performance can diminish spontaneity and negatively impact the ‘natural flow and rapport among students and teachers’ in the classroom (Shohamy 2013: 204). Airey (2015) notes that lectures in English tend to be contrived and delivered in a more formal, textbook language, while lectures in the native language take a more informal tone. Also, teachers’ failure to employ pragmatic strategies can constrain the delivery of content in English (Byun et al. 2011), impair clarity and ‘reduce student learning’ (Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998: 389). The problem of language insufficiency can also lead to frustration and a lack of student respect, and thus negatively affect the teacher’s self-concept and identity (Alsup 2006). Similarly, EMI can harm the teacher’s self-confidence and ← 16 | 17 → damage their professional status, as teaching in English can prove to be too challenging for them to manifest their knowledge and disseminate it (Cots 2013). By the same token, instruction in English can cause teachers to lose face in the classroom, as students generally believe that ‘it would be better for instructors whose English speaking ability is not good enough not to use English to deliver lectures’ (Chang 2010: 66).

Furthermore, the dual focus on language and content makes lesson preparation more time-consuming (Knapp 2011; Vinke, Snippe and Jochems 1998) and leads to an increase in teachers’ workload (Lo 2014). Another important point is that teachers are seldom trained to cope with the specifics of teaching in English. For example, EMI frequently involves teaching a culturally diverse student body; however, teaching staff are usually not trained in intercultural communication and can encounter interaction problems (Stone 2006). In other words, because intercultural training is necessary for understanding, articulating and functioning appropriately in ‘an international and intercultural context’ (Yang 2002: 86), teachers whose training is inadequate cannot confront challenges dealing with diversity in the EMI classroom (Tange 2010). Problems can also arise from teachers’ weak knowledge of methodology for instruction in English and of appropriate ‘pedagogical strategies […] to cope with language difficulties’, e.g. how to make content comprehensible to students with inadequate proficiency or how to compensate for their own language limitations (Lei and Hu 2014: 119). Teachers may need guidance on how to support student learning by ‘structur[ing] lessons that fuse language and content in ways that lead students to higher levels of cognitive engagement with content’ (Lyster and Ballinger 2011: 286).

At the socio-cultural level, it is noteworthy that since ‘English proficiency [has become] a legitimate and prestigious form of symbolic capital’ (Hu 2007: 114), it may negatively affect relationships among academic staff and have far-reaching consequences for hiring policy by creating two classes of teachers: those who possess the symbolic capital of English and those who do not. This being so, knowledge of the language may negatively impact hiring policy by giving a competitive advantage to native speakers (NSs) of English and promoting the recruitment of teachers from English-speaking countries (Kirgöz 2009), which, consequently, could relegate local ← 17 | 18 → staff to a lower rung. Similarly, universities may give hiring preference to local staff with qualifications from abroad, who are deemed to be more competent for EMI (Pan 2007), and to younger teachers, who tend to be more fluent in English (Hu 2007).

Student language learning also merits more critical attention and direct examination. Although it is commonly assumed that student language proficiency is enhanced through instruction in English, this aspect of EMI has recently come under scrutiny, along with the much acclaimed advantages of the paradigmatic shift from teaching EFL to the integrated learning of language and content (Dearden 2014). Limited student proficiency on enrolment on EMI programmes is a barrier to successful engagement in studies and can thus impede language development (Lei and Hu 2014; Mahboob 2014). Also, content instructors do not always have the necessary (meta)linguistic knowledge, language awareness, time and/or will to work on the language (Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra 2013b). Besides, not all of them produce comprehensible output, which is a necessary prerequisite for learning the subject matter as well as the language (Dearden 2014; Krashen 1982). Finally, expectations regarding language proficiency are not specified in EMI (Dearden 2014), and language development seems to be a taken-for-granted by-product of the instruction of content. In other words, language improvement is often seen as ‘something that will enhance students’ employability rather than something that can be addressed directly and intrinsically, as part of the study process’ (Turner 2011: 15). In view of the fact that the prime aim of EMI is content instruction through the medium of English, it is unlikely that systematic focus on language acquisition can take place in the classroom. This approach could lead to fossilization, and student proficiency may not improve during the course of their studies (Baecher, Farnsworth and Ediger 2014; Lyster 2007; Wilkinson 2013). A case in point is a study conducted in China which shows that the EMI programme has not improved the students’ language proficiency (Lei and Hu 2014). Similarly, in Japan, Taguchi (2014b) found that exposure to the target language had not advanced the students’ sociopragmatic competence. Instead, the study highlighted that feedback on the language, as well as modelling and reinforcement of appropriate use, should be incorporated into EMI. One should be cautious when making claims about language ← 18 | 19 → gain, and more systematic assessment of language competences during EMI would be needed to determine actual language progress in the receptive and productive domains.

Furthermore, an increase in EMI, which shifts the power symmetry in favour of English, is accompanied by the decreasing role of other languages (Phillipson 2006), which is raising concern regarding its negative impact on national languages, identities and ‘people’s outlook’ (Tamtam et al. 2012) as well as on the recognition and importance of academic scholarship in other languages (Kirkpatrick 2011). It is feared that the promotion of EMI may pose a threat to other languages and endanger their development; it may also bring into question their prestige and viability for research and teaching purposes. With the imposition of EMI, not only is the national language in question marginalized but other languages are as well, which can limit students’ language repertoire to English. The problem has become noticeable on a global scale as universities rarely teach in foreign languages other than English (Wilkins and Urbanovic 2014). This situation can gradually reduce linguistic pluralism in academia, which is especially significant in the humanities and social sciences as research in these fields is ‘very much embedded in particular languages and cultures’ (Gnutzmann 2008: 74).1 In the long run, local languages may no longer be used in some areas of ‘scientific communication’, which would ‘widen the gap between scientists and laypeople’ (Santulli 2015: 274). Also, the dominance of English in academia can infringe on the individual’s right to education in the native language. Furthermore, instruction in English can create experts who are incompetent or reluctant to operate in their areas of specialty in their L1. This could, as Wilkinson (2013) argues, make them unemployable in the local environment.

Given these points, EMI can also perpetuate undemocratic practices and social inequality by deepening the rift between the English-haves, ‘driven by a desire for a maximal profit of distinction’ (Hu 2009: 49), ← 19 | 20 → and the English-have-nots. Besides, the status associated with knowledge of English gives ‘its native speakers undue advantages’ (Li 2013: 65) and acts as the gatekeeper to academia (Saarinen and Nikula 2013; Shohamy 2013), which, in turn, restricts equal access to EMI. Also, as EMI is more prevalent in the private sector (Dearden 2014; Macaro, Akincioglu and Dearden 2016; Selvi 2011), it is not attainable to all. Another reason why EMI affects educational access and equity is that not every student has an equal opportunity to learn English (Tollefson and Tsui 2014). EMI can also cause an imbalance among disciplines since the majority of English-medium master’s programmes are offered in the fields of business and commerce (Brenn White and Faethe 2013), which intensifies focus on these areas (UNESCO 2006). Finally, if EMI is primarily driven by income and EMI policy makers are guided by economic rationales rather than by the humanistic ideal of education as a public good, HE could become a commodity instead of a public responsibility (Altbach and Knight 2007; Soler-Carbonell 2015), which could reduce universities to ‘brands’ and students to ‘customers’ (Coleman 2006: 3).

In light of the discussion so far, it is evident that care should be taken to adopt EMI with proper regard for the impending challenges, potential consequences and much-needed (language) support. Unfortunately, in the drive to internationalize, universities are introducing EMI with little consideration of the need to define an explicit language and education policy (Baldauf and Kaplan 2005; Wilkinson 2014a). At the same time, they are failing to provide information and funding, and to ensure the coordination necessary to support the innovative process (Dewey and Duff 2009). EMI still suffers from a dearth of planning regarding the role of English in education (cf. Soler-Carbonell 2015) and of an in-depth assessment of what is at stake. Teachers, for the most part, complain that the introduction of EMI lacks a legal/administrative/financial framework, rule book or ‘strategic approach’ (Byun et al. 2011: 447) which would provide stakeholders with the necessary and desired guidelines. Phillipson (2007) warns that Denmark has not secured the required additional funds. Gürtler and Kronewald (2015) and Knapp (2011) are critical of the fact that language training programmes and other support activities are still in their infancy or in the development stage and that content materials are not proofread. ← 20 | 21 → In Sweden, as Airey (2015) points out, the short notice for participation in EMI and the lack of language support have resulted in teacher insecurity regarding their skills and abilities to teach in English. Hu (2009) criticizes bilingual education in China for not paying sufficient attention to the course content. Cho (2012) and Kang (2012) complain that few teachers in the Korean context are capable of teaching in English, yet hardly any language support is available. Nguyen, Hamid and Moni (2016) also criticize the lack of conditions for EMI, such as teacher language proficiency, teacher training and teaching materials and resources, which are required for its satisfactory implementation. The results of a survey conducted at seventy universities in eleven European countries show that there is a great discrepancy between the importance attributed to EMI and the attention paid to the training and accreditation of teachers (O’Dowd 2015). What is more, there is no clear consensus on the level of English proficiency teachers should demonstrate. In fact, in 43 and 44 per cent of the institutions they must meet the language requirements at the B2 and C1 levels, respectively, while in 13 per cent it is set as high as C2 (O’Dowd 2015). Another problem is the absence of an institutional policy which would specify language-related aspects of EMI, such as the compulsory language competence for students prior to enrolment on an English-medium programme and the expected exit level upon its completion (Wilkinson 2014a).

It is doubtful whether stakeholders are fully aware of and understand the entire spectrum of positive and negative implications of instruction in English. Obviously, English in academia merits more critical attention and contextualized research-based insights. In line with this view, in the following chapters we further look at the debates surrounding instruction in English and delve into some of the issues discussed so far by exploring EMI in the Croatian academic context. ← 21 | 22 →

1 This point, however, is not equally applicable to all social sciences; that is, it is more associated with law than with economics, which is actually one of ‘the dominant fields in which English-taught programs are offered’ (Brenn-White and van Rest 2012: 18).

← 22 | 23 →


An EMI project in the Croatian higher education context

Croatia’s HE system has gone through significant changes since 2001, when the country joined Bologna (Šćukanec 2013), an international initiative that explicitly aimed for ‘the creation of the European area of higher education as a key way to promote citizens’ mobility and employability’ (Bologna Declaration 1999). In adopting the Bologna standards, Croatia sought a reform that would

contribute to alignment of the Croatian higher education with the European systems and its integration in the European Higher Education Area, improve the quality of the study programmes and their delivery, increase mobility, recognizability and reliability of Croatian higher education qualifications, improve access of people with foreign higher education qualifications to the Croatian labour market and assure equitable access to the Croatian higher education system (Agencija za znanost i visoko obrazovanje 2013).

By introducing Bologna, Central and Eastern Europe committed to streamlining the landscape of HE and improving the quality of their programmes to comply with Western levels (Field 2003). The signing of the Bologna Declaration introduced a market-driven education and initiated paradigmatic changes (Teichler 2009) which were expected to remedy key deficiencies of Croatian HE, such as a lack of ‘responsive[ness] to changing labour market demands’ (World Bank Report 2012: 37).

In reality, however, despite beliefs that Bologna would improve the quality of education, it did not produce the expected results, and the ‘enthusiasm for the reform soon waned’ (Uspješnost provedbe Bolonjskog procesa na Sveučilištu u Rijeci – izvješće 2012: 8). Faults were found in the way Bologna had been introduced – the haphazard, ‘à la carte’ implementation raised quite a few eyebrows (Uspješnost provedbe Bolonjskog procesa na ← 23 | 24 → Sveučilištu u Rijeci – izvješće 2012: 8). Students do not believe that Bologna has contributed to the quality of education, primarily due to the fact that its introduction was not thought out properly and the system was not prepared for the innovation (Anketa o provedbi Bolonjskog procesa na sveučilištima u Hrvatskoj n.d.). These sentiments were echoed by Neven Budak, Special Adviser for Science to the Croatian Prime Minister, who pointed out that Bologna had been hurried, without the appropriate preparation, and curricula had not undergone essential changes, but involved only cosmetic alterations. He also admitted that the aims of the reform had not been realized and cautioned that hasty educational revisions which had not been adequately planned could not yield the expected benefits.1 The recent Strategy of Education, Science and Technology also provides confirmatory evidence that the introduction of Bologna has posed challenges to Croatian HE (Strategija obrazovanja, znanosti i tehnologije 2014).

On the credit side, Bologna provided an opportunity for Croatian universities to align with internationalization at European universities in two aspects: student/staff mobility and English-taught programmes. At UNIRI, efforts to stimulate academic mobility and promote Central European university cooperation were initiated in 1995 with the Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies (CEEPUS). However, it took the University more than ten years, when UNIRI became a partner institution in the Enhancing Mobility of the Croatian Academic Community (MOBIL) Tempus project in 2006, to undertake organized activities on mobility. Two years later, a modest pilot mobility programme (a precursor to Erasmus) was set up (Lenac 2008), while a wider-scale mobility initiative was started in 2009, when UNIRI was awarded the Erasmus Charter. Since then, over 320 Erasmus bilateral agreements have been signed with universities from the majority of EU countries.2

Following these endeavours, short-term mobility has been somewhat improved (Šćukanec 2013), especially Erasmus mobilities, which have ← 24 | 25 → steadily increased over the past years from thirty-five outgoing mobilities in 2009–2010 to 153 in 2015–2016 and from no incoming mobility to 140 in 2009–2010 and 2015–2016, respectively.3

However, the small number of programmes and courses in a foreign language remains the biggest obstacle to incoming mobility (EHEA 2012). Consequently, it is highly questionable whether the expected increase to 10 and 5 per cent for outgoing and incoming student mobility is attainable by 2020 (cf. Strategija obrazovanja, znanosti i tehnologije 2014).

This position is reflected at UNIRI, where courses are predominantly taught in Croatian, except for scarce English-taught courses intended primarily for foreign students, courses in the foreign language departments and one full degree programme taught entirely in English. It is estimated that international students comprised a mere 1–1.5 per cent of the student body in the academic year 2015–2016.4 As regards home students and EMI, there does not appear to be a language and education policy which would regulate their rights and responsibilities. We are also not certain as to how well informed they are whether courses in English are offered and whether they are eligible to take them. Either way, home students seem to be rather reluctant to take courses in English if the courses are also available in Croatian.

Although EMI is not well developed at UNIRI, there is a certain degree of awareness among the management that steps should be taken to improve the offering of programmes in English. They seem to be cognizant of the fact that English (and multilingualism in general) has positive professional implications for graduates (cf. Cots, Lasagabaster and Garrett 2012). In the Strategy of the University of Rijeka 2007–2013 (Strategija Sveučilišta u Rijeci 2007–2013), one of the established goals is that ten master’s programmes should be offered in a foreign language. To reach this strategic goal, a language centre to support teachers in EMI was supposed to be founded at the English Department of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka (Lenac 2008). Unfortunately, to date, the University has not developed the ten programmes, nor has it established the language ← 25 | 26 → centre. For this reason, in the Strategy of the University of Rijeka 2014–2020 (Strategija Sveučilišta u Rijeci 2014–2020), the goal to increase the number of master’s programmes in a foreign language (to twenty) was repeated. It is noteworthy that in both strategies, like in most policy documents, there is a tendency towards using the ambiguous expression ‘foreign language’ rather than the more realistic term ‘English language’ (Saarinen and Nikula 2013; Soler-Carbonell 2015; Vodopija-Krstanović and Janjetić 2015). The underlying reasons for using this term are probably related to the management’s reluctance to single out English in official documents and thereby potentially undermine the importance of multilingual education.

As can be seen, the internationalization of HE has become a desirable goal in this context (Strategija obrazovanja, znanosti i tehnologije 2014) and has accordingly been identified in the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports University Funding Agreement Projects (Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta 2013). When tenders were invited for the University Funding Agreement Projects, the authors of this book submitted a proposal, and in June 2013, were awarded the Development of Study Programmes in English project. In 2014, this three-year project was turned into the more comprehensive Internationalization of Study Programmes project, supported by the Ministry to contribute to the realization of the strategic goals of the Tuition Fee Subsidy Agreement for full-time students. Initially, the Project was ranked as B priority, but in 2014, it was moved to A priority status.

The three main goals of the Project, as defined by the Agreement, are: a) internationalization of HE institutions, b) promotion of cooperation among universities and faculties, and c) enhancement of the quality of teaching. The specific Project tasks relative to EMI include: a) familiarization with trends, challenges and best practices in the European context; b) analysis of perceptions of students and staff who have not been involved in EMI; c) exploration of EMI practices; d) organization of workshops on the benefits and challenges of EMI as well as the measures that should be taken in order to meet the challenges; and e) design of a follow-up (language) support programme for teachers in EMI. The Project is the first organized initiative to broaden understanding of the position of EMI in the Croatian academic context, and as such provides research-based ← 26 | 27 → evidence for a planned, quality-based implementation of EMI grounded in bottom-up approaches.

One of the Project outcomes is the launching of the Language Support for Teachers in EMI lifelong learning programme. The aim of the Programme is to provide assistance in aspects of academic English deemed relevant for teaching in HE institutions. The Programme was developed and is delivered by the authors of this book, who are EFL teachers and (applied) linguists with insights into EMI. Following its design in 2014, it was submitted for external review in 2015, and in the same year, after minor modifications, it was approved by the UNIRI Senate.

The Programme carries a weighting of eight ECTS points and comprises thirty classes (lectures and seminars) which are held in two- to three-hour sessions per week throughout two months and are supplemented with distance learning assignments. The English language prerequisite for enrolment on the Programme is at least a B1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

The two courses offered in the Programme are Speaking Competences for EMI and Writing Competences for EMI. The first course focuses on improving fluency and accuracy in the spoken discourse of teaching and enhances comprehensibility by including signposting and transitions in lectures. It also strives to develop teacher autonomy in EMI by promoting teacher self-reflection on language use in academic discourse. The second course aims to improve English writing skills for teaching in English, especially for material design, presentations and online and hybrid teaching models. It deals with the following aspects of written academic discourse: morphosyntax, orthography, sections of a paragraph, coherence, cohesion, genre-specific language and language functions in written discourse. To receive course credits, participants are required to attend classes regularly, hold a presentation, give an oral and written reflective response on the presentation, give peer feedback, analyse written texts and write an integrated text by means of process writing. Although not a requirement, participants are also encouraged to provide feedback on the Programme’s effectiveness – on completion of the Programme, they are asked to assess the quality of teaching, the course content and the acquired competences. ← 27 | 28 → Additionally, they are expected to give delayed feedback on the usefulness of the Programme and its relevance to practice.

The Programme was launched by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka in May 2015. It generated considerable interest among university teachers, and we received more than 120 applications for a quota of twenty places. In the anonymous feedback, the participants rated highly all aspects of the Programme, that is, course design, content development, teaching methods and the achievement of learning outcomes. Their additional comments indicated that they not only believed that the Programme should be held annually but also thought that it should become a continuing professional development requirement. Many also stated that they would recommend it to other teachers because it had helped improve both their language and pedagogical skills, such as introducing a topic, structuring a presentation, using scaffolding to facilitate comprehension and asking questions.

Our work has led us to conclude that UNIRI teachers are aware of the need to develop competences for EMI and, above all, are willing to develop further in this area. In fact, in September 2015, the UNIRI Centre for Studies, a body comprising vice-deans for education and student affairs from all the constituent institutions, recommended that the number of Programme offerings should be increased.

1 Neven Budak, Panel discussion on HE and science in the Strategy of Education, Science and Technology, held at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rijeka, 11 October 2013.

2 Data provided by the Head of Mobility Unit, International Relations Office, UNIRI.

3 Data provided by the Head of Mobility Unit, International Relations Office, UNIRI.

4 Data provided by the Head of Mobility Unit, International Relations Office, UNIRI.

← 28 | 29 →


Exploring attitudes, experiences and practices

The data in this study were obtained using a mixed-method approach. Individual semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, classroom observation and stimulated recall of teaching events required qualitative analysis, while questionnaires involved quantitative (although the instruments did contain a number of qualitatively analysed open-ended questions). In other words, the data were triangulated by the use of multiple methods of collection to capture different dimensions of the same phenomenon and to validate the findings (cf. Holliday 2002). The following sections look at aims, research questions, research contexts, participants, research methods, ethical concerns and (possible) limitations of the study.

Rationale for the study

The broader aims of the study were to explore student and teacher attitudes and their inclination towards EMI. More specifically, we examined the perspectives of teachers and students who had not been involved in EMI as well as the views of those who had undertaken instruction through the medium of English. The objective of investigating the first group was to gain insights into their willingness and self-perceived competence to undertake instruction in English, as well as into their perceptions of the strengths, challenges, usefulness and feasibility of instruction in English, and the prerequisites for its implementation. The reasons for examining the second group involved drawing on their experiences gained from EMI in practice and exploring their feelings towards instruction in an L2. The opinions of ← 29 | 30 → the students enrolled on the equivalent Croatian-taught programme regarding study in Croatian and English were also canvassed. Furthermore, we wanted to examine the characteristics of EMI classes (EMIC) in relation to Croatian-medium instruction classes (CMIC), that is, to develop an in-depth understanding of pedagogical and language practices in EMIC by drawing a comparison with the same classes taught in Croatian. Finally, we aimed to identify the advantages and disadvantages of EMI and enquire into the measures that should be taken to improve instruction.

Ultimately, the intention of the research was to gain a comprehensive understanding of EMI from multiple perspectives by using a variety of methods and to develop effective and relevant (language) support for the (future) implementation of EMI at UNIRI and beyond.

Five questions concerning EMI

The study was guided by the overarching question: How is EMI conceptualized and realized in the Croatian HE context?

Specifically, the study sought to answer the following research questions:

RQ1:What is the stance of teachers and students with regard to (the implementation of) EMI?
RQ2:What are the (potential) challenges and implications of instruction in English?
RQ3:What are the prerequisites for a successful introduction and realization of EMI; that is, how can the challenges posed by instruction in English be addressed/prevented?
RQ4:How does the adoption of English as a medium of instruction affect classroom dynamics?
RQ5:What are the similarities and differences between EMIC and CMIC? ← 30 | 31 →

Academic contexts under study

UNIRI is the second largest university in Croatia, founded in 1973. It consists of fifteen constituent institutions (ten faculties, four university departments and one academy) with approximately 17,000 students and 1,000 members of academic staff. UNIRI also comprises twelve centres for research and development, not counting the centres affiliated with a particular constituent institution, as well as other bodies, such as development and support centres, UNIRI-affiliated companies and professional teaching units. The University provides undergraduate, master’s, post-master’s, PhD and lifelong learning education (Sveučilište u Rijeci 2010). Like all public universities, UNIRI is autonomous and can ‘independently decide on [its] organization and operation’ (Šćukanec 2013: 40). ‘[F]aculties and academies are parts of universities, but legally recognized as separate and independent legal entities’ (Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency 2010: 2), which ‘are autonomous in determining contents and teaching methods of their study programs’ (Šćukanec 2013: 11) and, by implication, the language of instruction and all matters concerning EMI.

Biographical notes

Branka Drljača Margić (Author) Irena Vodopija-Krstanović (Author)

Branka Drljača Margić is Lecturer and Head of the English and Applied Linguistics Section in the English Department at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka. Irena Vodopija-Krstanović is Lecturer and Vice-Dean for Education at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka. Branka and Irena run the «Internationalization of Study Programmes» project and the «Language Support for Teachers in EMI» lifelong learning programme.


Title: Uncovering English-Medium Instruction