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


In 2009, the Japanese government launched the Global 30 (G30) Project, a new initiative to internationalize universities. Selected universities had to create English-medium degree programs at undergraduate level in order to stimulate "internationalization at home." The G30 Project represented a major shift in the focus of internationalization efforts from quantitative to qualitative outcomes. Using a case study approach, this paper investigates one G30 program and the attempts made to open up English-medium course offerings to the wider student body. It explores two related issues: level setting and student attrition. A mixed methods approach was used with data gathered from students and course instructors. Sanford's (1966/2009) "support and challenge" conceptual framework, as adapted by J. M. Bennett (1993), and Vygotsky's (1978) "zone of proximal development and scaffolding" were employed. Results showed that to maximize learning it was important to have strategies to maintain a high level of course content while also providing targeted support to students at appropriate times. Effective strategies for reducing course attrition were identified.

Keywords: Higher education internationalization, Global 30, English-medium course, English-medium instruction, level setting, student course attrition, content language integrated learning, EMI, CLIL


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. …

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