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Publication Detail
Investigating policy and implementation of English medium instruction in higher education institutions in China
Why was this report commissioned? Internationalisation of Chinese higher education has accelerated at a rapid pace over the past two decades, spurred by numerous government initiatives. At present, there is a pressing need for an investigation into EMI implementation across Chinese universities. In response, this report aims to take stock of the current state of EMI policy implementation in Chinese higher education to better understand EMI provision and to inform future EMI growth. It explores multiple levels of policy implementation, alongside an investigation of implementation affordances and challenges. How were data for the report collected? This report draws on three phases of data collection at three levels of policy implementation. To investigate top-down policy making trends, policy analysis was conducted using 93 EMI-related documents produced by 63 universities. To investigate policy interpretation, fieldwork was conducted at eight universities, involving interviews with 26 key EMI policy stakeholders including university deans and heads of programmes. To investigate EMI in practice, survey research was conducted with 152 EMI teachers and 561 EMI students at multiple universities across China. What did the project find? • There has been a recent shift in policy away from bilingual models of EMI towards English only programmes, however students and teachers still view bilingualism as normal practice in the majority of EMI classrooms; while English is the dominant language used for course delivery, Chinese is predominantly used for interaction. • EMI growth has occurred at all levels of higher education, but is more pronounced at the postgraduate level, although there is some indication that growth may slow in the future. Nevertheless, many schools are still under pressure to create EMI courses for both the international and domestic student bodies. • EMI courses are reported in policy to cultivate student talents, to respond to globalisation, to promote internationalisation, and to improve the quality of teaching; however, the main driving force for universities was to meet their internationalisation objectives. • Disciplinary majors that include EMI courses are considered more likely to lead to better professional and scholastic opportunities for students compared to traditional programmes or language majors. However, students and teachers expressed concerns that EMI may reduce the quality of the subject matter. • EMI course creation is incentivised through numerous monetary and professional rewards; however, teachers reported that the incentives do not reflect the substantial workload associated with EMI delivery. • There are numerous regulations focusing on ensuring teachers’ language ability to teach through English, but very few regulations focusing on ensuring students have the language ability to learn through English. This is worrying, considering students report a range of language-related challenges leading to a lack of confidence in being successful in EMI classrooms. What are the main recommendations of the report? This report makes four main recommendations for future policy development and implementations. These are: 1. To create clear and effective evaluative systems to ensure quality implementation of EMI courses and to share good practices. 2. To provide flexible models of EMI depending on students’ needs; in contexts where students might struggle to learn the subject matter, bilingual or CLIL approaches may be more effective. 3. To incentivize EMI course creation via a workload model that accurately reflects the real time demands placed on EMI teachers. 4. To necessitate discipline-specific and on-going language support structures for students studying on EMI programmes, rather than relying on the general English curriculum.
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