Internationalisation and EAP: Transforming the Academy through a Focus on Language

This month we published Making Language Visible in the University by Bee Bond. In this post the author explains the context in which her book was written.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and the (neoliberal) Higher Education policies of internationalisation have an ‘elective affinity’ (Zepke, 2015). In other words, the exponential growth in the demand for EAP is directly linked to an increasing focus on marketing Higher Education study to an international market. EAP as an emerging field of study and practice would not have been afforded as much space to grow and develop had it not been for global Higher Education policies that encouraged student mobility across borders and the increasing stronghold of English as the accepted norm for most academic communication. EAP and its practitioners directly benefit from this growth.

However, for most EAP practitioners, the neoliberal focus of such policies sits uncomfortably with their world view and their professional practices. The connection between the international student and financial gain for an institution works to the detriment of a focus on the intellectual, cultural and social benefits that come from studying in a global community and does not sit well within the epistemology of those involved in the study and teaching of languages.

Furthermore, there is a tension between EAP and the rest of the academy due to the frequent framing of international students as being in deficit. This perception positions those whose work is focused on supporting English language learning students to find ways of accessing academic content in English as being on the edges of academia – acting as a bridge to the real work rather than an integral part of academic life. This is also connected to the invisibility of language within the academy which, as Turner argues (2004) only becomes visible when it is viewed as a technical problem that then needs to be ‘fixed’ by an EAP practitioner.

It is these intersections and misconnections between internationalisation, the EAP practitioner and the view of language as either an invisible or a technical aside to the real academic work of disciplinary content knowledge development that provide the context for my book. In order to address these issues, and move EAP away from the ‘edges of academia’ (Ding & Bruce, 2017) it is clear that it is necessary to work within this context; to embrace the ‘elective affinity’ that EAP  has with internationalisation policies and to work through them to effect change rather than to ignore or resist from the margins. By engaging in scholarship; acting as ethnographers of the academy to better understand the role of language within specific disciplines and contexts, and then communicating and highlighting this understanding beyond the EAP community, I believe it is possible for EAP practitioners to work in partnership with international students as agents for change.

International students have the potential to positively transform higher education practices, forcing a reflexive, shifting awareness of pedagogy, academic practices and the disciplinary canon. EAP practitioners, fully embedded and accepted within their institution as valued scholars, should work as advocates and allies for these students, pushing for structural change through policy decisions. In this way, EAP practitioners can become agents for positive change rather than marginalised technicians who are exposed to the political and structural decisions made around them.

Bee Bond, The University of Leeds

b.bond@leeds.ac.uk

@BeeBond1

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle.