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.

From Syria to the UK: My First Year Insights as an International Student

This month we published International Students’ Challenges, Strategies and Future Vision by Anas Hajar. In this post the author talks about his own experiences as an international student in the UK.

My first study abroad experience dates back to 2009 when I joined a postgraduate programme in English language teaching at Warwick University in the UK. Like many international students who study abroad, I aspired to establish meaningful interactions with locals – interactions that go beyond commercial exchanges and small talk in student cafeterias. However, I ended up spending most of my free time with two Syrian fellows and some other international students from China, Greece and Italy.

The superficiality of my interactions with the British stemmed mainly from my little awareness of learning strategies that can help enhance sojourn outcomes. I had limited experience in technology to check the latest social and academic activities offered by Warwick University. In addition, academic study pressure was extremely high and my ultimate vision was to complete my academic requirements and expand my knowledge in my specialisation. I was afraid of failure and of letting family members down, since I was government-sponsored.

My perspective about the myth of the “native speaker” as the ideal teacher changed at the end of my Master’s degree programme. To my surprise, two tutors who inspired me in the programme were non-native speakers of English. They seemed to me quite aware of the needs of international students, probably because they themselves experienced first-hand the phenomenon of international students pursuing their academic studies abroad through the medium of English. The two tutors gave a clear vision about the taught modules and interesting materials. They also provided useful, detailed and timely feedback on my written work. My dissertation supervisor passed on effective strategies that helped me make my writing more critical and develop a new identity as a neophyte researcher.

In Middle Eastern countries, the youth rarely leave their family and live on their own before marriage. Studying abroad made me grow into a more independent person, since this was my first experience of living apart from my parents. I had to be responsible for my decisions. My personal independence was reinforced through endeavours to meet personal life needs, such as purchasing household goods, finding and cooking Middle Eastern food, opening a bank account and searching for prepaid SIM cards to make overseas calls.

I felt homesick especially during celebratory occasions in Syria. Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated and enjoyed the gatherings organised by the University of Warwick Chaplaincy during Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, in which Middle Eastern food was served and people from different nationalities met and exchanged experiences.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning by Carol Griffiths.

Desiring TESOL and International Education

In February we published Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha’s latest book Desiring TESOL and International Education. Here, the authors tell us a bit more about the key themes of the book.

Desiring TESOL and International EducationOur multidimensional identities, at least as recipients of international (TESOL) education and now working as academics actively involved in international education at universities in the English-speaking West, have allowed us to engage with the main concerns raised in the book in unique ways. This has also enabled us to offer a balanced analysis and discussion of various aspects of international education and TESOL, without compromising our scholarly stance. We, in the book, do not attempt to portray international education as either good or bad. Rather we examine how vested interest groups, such as universities and governments, construct and understand the term ‘international’ and how such understanding is promoted for largely implicit commercial and hegemonic reasons.

Rather than making generalisations on the actual needs and abilities of international students, our book demythologises the established images of them generated by the sustained homogenisation of these vested interest groups. It looks at how, although individual learning needs and prospects are often dictated by apparently arbitrary choices, which we call ‘desire’, the foundation for such choices lays in ways individuals are often led into by carefully articulated incentives offered through promotional discourses. And although we acknowledge and discuss the power of resistance and appropriation, our work points to the futility of such discourses in trying to establish the so-called ‘needs’ of international students in Australia and across the English-speaking West.

If you would like further information on this title please take a look at our website.