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Sharing Perspectives on English-Medium Instruction

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Edited By Katherine Ackerley, Marta Guarda and Francesca Helm

English is increasingly used as a medium of instruction in European higher education not only in northern countries, but also in the European ‘south’. This volume is fruit of a project which was carried out in a public university based in the north-east of Italy with the aim of delivering professional development for university lecturers engaged in EMI. It begins with an overview of the European context, the Italian context, and some of the arguments against the indiscriminate spread of English as a medium of instruction in higher education. The volume then focuses on the microcontext of the university, giving voice to the various stakeholders in EMI. These include researchers, lecturers, administrative staff, those involved in professional development and students. The central part of the volume presents the views and experiences of twelve EMI lecturers from a range of academic disciplines. In sharing these perspectives on EMI, the volume hopes to stimulate critical dialogue and research on the many issues involved in this aspect of internationalisation in higher education institutions.

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English-medium instruction in Italian universities: If we’re gonna do it do it right – right? (Francesca Costa)

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FRANCESCA COSTA1

English-medium instruction in Italian universities: If we’re gonna do it do it right – right?

1.   Introduction

In Italy there has been a heated debate on English-medium instruction (EMI) due to the decision taken by the Politecnico di Milano in 2012 to have all its Master’s and PhD programmes taught in English. This led some faculty to take the issue to the Regional Administrative Tribunal, which decided in their favour, declaring that teachers were free to decide on their own whether they wanted to teach in English or Italian (Pulcini/Campagna 2015; Santulli 2015). The court ruled that forcing them to teach in English would be detrimental to their libertà di insegnamento or teaching freedom2. The ruling also made reference to Royal Decree 1592 from 1933 which is still in force and establishes Italian as the official language of university teaching. This court case was a clear warning sign, and perhaps the first recognition by Italian academics, that English-medium instruction was beginning to spread in a pervasive manner in Italian universities, despite the fact that English-taught ← 77 | 78 → programmes (ETPs) have existed since the mid-‘90s. In one sense this awareness was a positive development, since it highlighted the need to regulate a phenomenon which is in need of careful planning.

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