Multilingualising the “international” university: Spaces for linguistic and epistemic diversity in policy and practice

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Epistemic challenges experienced by non-native English-speaking students at English-dominant (ED) and English-medium (EMI) universities are frequently reduced to issues of limited English language proficiency. The university’s response is often to adopt a deficit model and ‘support’ such students by allocating resources to English for Academic Purposes (EAP) or academic literacy programmes, thus raising questions about the institution’s interpretation of the concept of ‘internationalisation’.

The paper reports on a recent empirical study which investigated the tensions and contradictions in policy and practice around the implementation of internationalisation agendas at selected UK universities and the politics of language choice in these institutions. Drawing on qualitative analysis of relevant policies and interviews with international students, supervisors and administrators, the paper discusses stakeholders’ reflections on the relationship between linguistic and epistemic diversity in the context of doctoral training in social sciences, and the extent to which such diversity is (in-)formally recognised and capitalised on.

The paper argues that bi-, multi- and translingual practices in higher education spaces explored in this research are commonplace among the international doctoral students, and in some cases, also among their doctoral supervisors. Where language choice is recognised as central to shaping the transmission and production of academic knowledge, different linguistic resources can indeed be productively deployed by students and academic staff in the process of teaching, learning, supervision and research. However, despite some discursive support for the recognition of alternative epistemologies, the use of languages other than English in doctoral programmes continues to be seen as contentious and the issue remains largely unregulated as it is absent from relevant university policy.

Key words: linguistic diversity; epistemology; higher education policy; internationalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
EventLanguage Policy and Planning Conference - University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 21 Nov 201924 Nov 2019


ConferenceLanguage Policy and Planning Conference


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