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The expansion of English-medium instruction in the Nordic countries: Can top-down university language policies encourage bottom-up disciplinary literacy goals?

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  • John Airey, Uppsala University, Linnaeus University, Sweden
  • Karen M. Lauridsen
  • Anne Räsänen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Finland
  • Linus Sälö, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Vera Schwach, The Nordic Institute fiór Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, Norway
Recently, in the wake of the Bologna Declaration and similar international
initiatives, there has been a rapid increase in the number of university courses and programmes
taught through the medium of English. Surveys have consistently shown the
Nordic countries to be at the forefront of this trend towards English-medium instruction
(EMI). In this paper, we discuss the introduction of EMI in four Nordic countries (Denmark,
Finland, Norway and Sweden). We present the educational setting and the EMI
debate in each of these countries and summarize relevant research findings. We then make
some tentative suggestions for the introduction of EMI in higher education in other
countries. In particular, we are interested in university language policies and their relevance
for the day-to-day work of faculty. We problematize one-size-fits-all university
language policies, suggesting that in order for policies to be seen as relevant they need to
be flexible enough to take into account disciplinary differences. In this respect, we make
some specific suggestions about the content of university language policies and EMI course
syllabuses. Here we recommend that university language policies should encourage the
discussion of disciplinary literacy goals and require course syllabuses to detail disciplinaryspecific
language-learning outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education
Volume73
Issue4
Pages (from-to)561-576
Number of pages16
ISSN0018-1560
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • University language policy; bilingualism; disciplinary literacy; English medium instruction; nordic language policy

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