Review of the Book the Higher Education Language Landscape: Ensuring Quality in English Language Degree Programmes

By Bamond, Victoria; Strotmann, Birgit | Higher Learning Research Communications, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Review of the Book the Higher Education Language Landscape: Ensuring Quality in English Language Degree Programmes


Bamond, Victoria, Strotmann, Birgit, Higher Learning Research Communications


Book Summary

The Higher Education Language Landscape: Ensuring Quality in English Language Degree Programmes, written by Marsh, Pavón-Vázquez, and Frigols-Martín (2013) draws on research carried out over a span of fifteen years to produce twenty-six levers that are fundamental to the successful implementation of English-taught degree programs in higher education. In this way it fills an extensive gap in the literature on English-medium instruction (EMI), where a great deal has been published regarding methodologies and good practices within primary and secondary education, but not so much within the context of higher education.

Current internationalization trends are quickly changing this scenario due to the growing demand of universities for guidelines to aid in the process. The authors, through these close to thirty levers, offer a clear set of strategies that could easily fit into the improvement plans of any university where internationalization processes and/or language policy production are concerned, stating them in the form of possible Key Performance Indicators, which are measurable and may be used as a map towards quality international education. The authors themselves define them as a "blueprint for action designed to be adaptable to the environment in which the university operates" (Marsh, Pavón-Vázquez, & Frigols-Martín, 2013, p. 9).

The first chapter covers the first eight levers under the heading Governance & Strategy. In this section, issues such as University Language Policy, Program Objectives and Language Planning, English Language Fluency, Staff Incentives, the Role of Language Specialists, Research, and Learning Technologies are presented. The authors differentiate between language policy and language planning exemplifying policy as the university's constitution and the plan as the road map. They also advise that program objectives have to be linked to competencies and incentives offered to staff involved in English-taught degree programs to compensate the extra time and effort they have to invest, which may take 300% more time than in their domestic language, according to the authors. Collaboration with language specialists, peers and researchers is a must to ensure quality activities, as is investing in technologies that enable such collaboration.

Levers nine to sixteen form the second chapter on Program Management, with themes such as Student Intake, Voluntary Involvement of Teaching Staff and Coordinated Staff Dialogue, English Language Communication Objectives, Benchmarking Learning Success, Concept Formation, English Language Program Input, and finally, Plagiarism Management. In this chapter the authors highlight that "those universities that internationalize with a clear focus on quality now will be those that will be better suited to thrive" (Marsh et al., 2013, p. 25), claiming an increased importance being placed on the value of higher education and alternative forms of competency-based education as contributing factors. Where staff is concerned, the point is made that involvement in English-taught programs has to be voluntary and coordination within degrees is essential, particularly at implementation. Programs must have clear objectives that include both communication and subject aims, and learning should follow a modular approach that includes continuous assessment and benchmarking. Concept formation is proposed as an important skill for staff to master, as are socio-constructivist methodologies and tasks based on acquiring higher order thinking skills. English language programs are important in universities that offer English-taught degree programs and may be fully integrated, closely integrated or separated from the teaching of subjects, the latter being the least desirable. Detecting plagiarism may pose difficulties for non-native faculty, and therefore providing quality English language detection software is recommended.

Chapter Three is titled Professional Integration and includes levers seventeen to twenty-three, which mostly concern support and cooperation. …

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