Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Realizing Internationalization at Home through English-Medium Courses at a Japanese University: Strategies to Maximize Student Learning

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Realizing Internationalization at Home through English-Medium Courses at a Japanese University: Strategies to Maximize Student Learning

Article excerpt


There have been increasing demands for higher education institutions (HEIs) in non-English speaking countries to establish English-medium programs and courses in order to attract international students, produce graduates who can contribute to the global workforce, and promote international profile of the institution (Doiz, Lasagabaster, & Sierra 2011; Lavankura, 2013; Kuroda, 2014). HEIs in continental Europe and throughout Asia have increased the number of range of English-medium programs and courses in recent years (Bradford, 2012). Japanese universities, previously not noted for providing English-medium programs, have recently started to follow this trend. To be more competitive in the globalized society and attract the world's "best" international students, Japanese leading universities have been striving to create quality English-medium degree programs at graduate level, and even at the more human resource intensive, undergraduate level.

In 2009 the Japanese government began to provide incentives to universities to establish English-medium programs through a new university internationalization project referred to as the "Project for Establishing University Network for Internationalization," or the Global 30 (G30) Project. This project resulted in a significant increase in English-medium degree programs and individual course offering in Japanese universities. Over the five years of the G30 project, 2009 to 2014, 33 undergraduate and 123 graduate English-medium degree programs were newly established (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT], 2014).

One driver for creating English-medium programs and courses is that they allow universities to overcome the Japanese language barrier, making it possible to attract a larger and more diverse international student population. In the global race for securing the largest possible market share of highly talented international students, reducing the language barrier offer the promise of overcoming the hitherto phenomenon of "Japan passing", where talented students head to the English speaking countries rather than Japan, despite its mature HE sector (MEXT, 2008).

Another driver is that English-medium courses are of interest to local students and can help promote "internationalization at home." In addition to attracting international students in Japan, the Japanese government has sought to send Japanese students overseas to foster globally competitive human resources. Despite the trend, Japanese students are less mobile now and far fewer are going overseas for study now than in the bubble years of the 1980s and early 1990s. Given this situation, internationalization at home has been an alternative strategy and can provide non-mobile local students with international learning experiences.

Despite the expectations, offering English-medium programs and courses is not without its challenges for Japanese institutions. Ensuring a high quality teaching and learning environment is one such challenge (Bradford, 2012; Burgess, Gibson, Klaphake, & Selzer, 2010; Jon & Kim, 2011; Kuwamura, 2009; Lassegard, 2006; Mori, 2011; Tsuneyoshi, 2005). This paper explores student teaching and learning issues involved with English-medium instruction in Japanese universities, and the strategies that instructors are employing to enhance the quality of the at-home international learning environment. For the purpose of this paper, English-medium instruction (EMI) and EMI courses and programs refer specifically to the situation where a course or program is delivered in English in an educational setting where English is a second language.

This paper reports on a case study of one G30 program offered by a national university in Japan that, for the purposes of this study, will be called the Social Science International Undergraduate Program (SOC Program). The SOC program took in its first cohort of students in 2010. The students have a very high level of English proficiency and initially participation in classes was limited to student enrolled on the SOC program or the other English medium undergraduate program offered by the university. …

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