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


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.

The Impact of Neoliberalism on Education and Language Learning

This month we are publishing Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and touch on its main themes.

Nowadays cuts in spending, austerity plans and restructuring of the public sector have become commonplace for a large part of the world population. This development is far from new, but rather stands in the tradition of neoliberalism, as introduced on both sides of the Atlantic by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

In the context of education, central elements to these reforms have been privatisation, competitiveness and marketisation. The colonization of education by market principles has introduced a paradigmatic change which has resulted in an abdication of a Humboldtian education model to one which favours ideas of employability and profitability. This change proves problematic for most humanities, social sciences and language studies which have to legitimise their worth. The neoliberal austerity measures thus also have a very direct impact on us as researchers and teachers alike.

Against this backdrop, we wanted to engage in an empirical discussion on the interplay and effects of the implementation of neoliberal policies, the increasing hegemony of neoliberal governmentalities on education and on language learning and teaching. In short, as we, the editors of this volume argue, the current political economic conditions bring about a resignification of education, language, and the self that fits the neoliberal agenda, which pushes, among other things, the turning of language into skills and items of branding, the responsibilisation of individuals and the turning of them into entrepreneurs of themselves.

We follow the trajectories of students, teachers and educators as well as of institutions that are subjected to these political economic transformations. Touching upon a variety of geographical, social, and linguistic contexts, the researchers contributing to this book will provide first-hand accounts and critical inquiries into issues that range from the detrimental ideologies of self-deprecation of South Koreans in the face of hastily implemented English as the general medium of instruction for higher education, to efforts of the Chinese government to commercialise the teaching of Mandarin and the contradictory effects this has on notions of linguistic authenticity and legitimacy.

Further insights are offered in terms of language teaching, i.e. the neoliberal conditions teachers of English for Academic Purposes have to face, due to which they turn to veritable “resource leeching” or the joint-initiative of teachers and parents to support their refugee children, left behind in official US school policies that is entirely output-oriented. University students also form the object of interest in this volume, as conscious agents trying to accumulate linguistic capital even if only for symbolic reasons, both Italian-speaking students in German-speaking Switzerland or Brazilian students in Anglo-Canada. A third stream brings contributors to discuss minority languages in educational settings in the US (Spanish-English dual bilingual and Mexico and their recalibration along neoliberal ideas of commodification and valorization). A final focus centres on language teaching for vocational purposes.

Come and join us on this journey – even if you might not like what you see.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education by John E. Petrovic.

Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom

This month we are publishing Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom by Christian W. Chun. In this post, Christian discusses the background to the book.

Power and Meaning Making in an EAP ClassroomLong before I became an academic researcher, I had taught English as an additional language and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for over 15 years in Los Angeles. My own classroom and teaching practices were shaped not by any graduate course curriculum – I didn’t even begin my MA in TESOL studies until my 12th year of teaching – but by my own students’ lived experiences they shared with me. One seminal, searing moment that set my pedagogical and research approach on the present path was the 1992 uprisings over the Rodney King verdict, one year after I had started teaching. On April 29th 1992, four Los Angeles police officers (among others) who had been video-recorded beating and kicking a motorist who had been stopped – Rodney King – were acquitted of all charges. Many in the communities who had suffered police brutality revolted by burning and looting their own and adjacent communities. One such community affected was where many of my students resided and worked; some of them lost their livelihoods as a result. They came to class that week and the following weeks understandably angry and demanded to know why this had happened to them. My classroom was thus immediately transformed into a space in which critical pedagogy was called into being not by me or some agenda I wanted to impose, but by my students themselves, who began to articulate their lived identities and practices that attempted to connect their language use, culture, education, and politics to the society in which they were now living.

It was this event that has since informed my work on critical EAP examining how both teachers and students take up and talk about the dominant representations and discourses that attempt to frame and narrate our everyday lives in society. These ways of talking about and understanding the world are important, for they help shape not only how students use language in their engagements with new and unfamiliar texts, discourses, and academic language, but also just as importantly, in talking about topics and issues that traditionally have been avoided in the English language classroom (e.g., politics, race, economic issues, and religion to name just a few). These students, therefore, have ample opportunities to exercise academic literacy skills so crucial to success in tertiary studies.

Critical pedagogy in education and in English language teaching in particular has been much theorized as well as debated and contested. However, there have been very few case studies of critical pedagogy approaches in action by practitioners themselves. My book is a move to address this, for it has been described by Brian Morgan as “the first close examination of pedagogical relationships and practices within an EAP setting.” Working closely with the participant instructor for nearly a year, we explored how she could put the beginnings of a critical literacy pedagogy into her classroom practices. By implementing critical theories into classroom practices, Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom: Engaging with the Everyday is not only addressed to researchers, but also teacher educators and practitioners with its accessible written style. By featuring our lived experiences and identities in our research discussions and the instructor’s accompanying changing teaching approaches and the ensuing enabled meaning makings by her students, I hope this book will contribute to new directions and developments of critical pedagogy that is much needed in our 21st century world.

For more information about this book please see our website.