Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Higher Education Language Policy: Report of the CEL/ELC Working Group

Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Higher Education Language Policy: Report of the CEL/ELC Working Group

Article excerpt

1. Background: language policy - what and why?

The twenty-first century has witnessed a dramatic increase in the internationalisation of higher education.1 This is due to a number of interrelated factors: open borders and globalisation in general have first of all resulted in a significant increase in migration; secondly, globalisation has opened up new opportunities in countries and cultures with which most Europeans have previously had little or no contact at all. In addition to that, within Europe, the Bologna Process and the development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has sparked both educational development and student and staffmobility to a level that has never been seen before. These developments have a tremendous impact on the development of European higher education, and despite the differences that still exist among different kinds of higher education institutions (HEIs), and despite the differences in geographical location and the communities they serve, almost all European HEIs now face the benefits and the challenges of globalisation and internationalisation.

A Higher Education Language Policy (HELP) should always be seen within the national or regional context of the HEI in question, and it should be a function of the HEI mission, vision and strategies for research, education and service to HEI stakeholder communities. Across these core activities, a language policy establishes the languages of instruction and of administration and communication as well as the aims and objectives of language programmes, language support measures and the way in which these are put into practice within a particular HEI. The goal of this document is not to prescribe one specific way of doing this, but to address the components of an HEI language policy and thereby assist HEI leaders and management teams in the development of their own language policies.

Successful implementation of language strategies hinges on many interrelated factors, most crucially (1) that the programmes offered should prepare HE graduates for the - now global - labour market with the knowledge, skills and competences of the disciplines they have studied, and with cultural awareness, intercultural communication skills and a language repertoire that enable them to work both within and without their immediate local community; and (2) that researchers have the capability of sharing their knowledge through publication to the international scholarly community as well as to the national and local communities of non-expert stakeholders. In order for this to happen, not only the researchers, lecturers and students, but also the librarians, technicians and administrative staffmust have the necessary language skills.

2. The basic tenets of an HE language policy

An HE Language Policy may encompass some or all the following principal areas:

* the HEI institutional language or languages, the language(s) of administration and communication;

* language degree programmes (e.g. modern-language degrees, translation and interpreting, teacher training);

* languages for non-language students, languages for mobility and employment;

* the language(s) of instruction and language support for lecturers not teaching through the medium of their own first languages;

* language support for researchers;

* language support for librarians, technicians and administrative staff;

* languages for the wider community.

A key question is obviously which languages should be taught in a given HEI. The answer to this depends on a number of factors, among which are the following:

* the language repertoire that students already have or are expected to have when they enrol in an HE programme;

* the language repertoire that faculty and lecturers have or are expected to have;

* the geographical location of the HEI;

* the HEI mission and vision as well as the strategies that the HEI has adopted in order to enhance graduate mobility and employability. …

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