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Title: The rhetoric and reality of the English language and internationalisation : stakeholder perspectives on varieties of English and intelligibility within higher education in countries categorised as native speaking
Author: Ugbaja, Dozie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 3141
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2015
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This work investigates practical realities of international socio-cultural inclusivity from a linguistic point of view in a context of International Higher Education. It speculates that linguistic inclusivity in International Higher Education appears to be merely rhetoric when it comes to the adaptation to and accommodation of Non-Native varieties of the English language on the basis of intelligibility. The need to consider this rhetoric as against what obtains in reality was strengthened by a conflicting tension observable in the literature and by certain Higher Education practices in countries categorised as Native Speaking (NS). The tension has to do with the conflict in global English discourse between the Standard English (SE) camp and the World English (WE) one. While scholars of the former advocate for sustaining the Native Speaking (NS) varieties as the ‘standard’ in the international use of the English language, scholars of the latter state that Non-Native (NNS) varieties could also be standardised in their own rights. International Higher Education appears to be favouring the SE side of the divide over WE, as can be seen for example on the dependence on NS-based testing systems through IELTS and TOEFL or their equivalents for recruitment and selection of both international students and international staff. This work starts from the premise that true ‘internationalisation’, socio-cultural inclusivity and integration is meant to be void of any superiority views or practices that favour one socio-cultural group over another, even linguistically. With this in mind, the project set out to investigate perceptions on linguistic inclusivity in International Higher Education, albeit with recognisable limitations on generalisabilty of the results of the findings, because this study is considered as the beginning of a more wide-reaching research gap area. In order to achieve the stated purpose above, data was gathered from students-as-stakeholders and managers-as-stakeholders on their orientation towards international NNS scholars and academics who possess country-specific varieties of English which are clearly different from those of the NS. A two-sided innovative approach aimed at testing for intelligibility, as well as gathering perception on and seeking orientations of NNS/WE speakers was employed. It involved the use of an IELTS listening test, where the recorded speakers were NNS/WE users, and a post-test perceptions questionnaire, administered to the student participants. There was also the use of focus group discussions aimed at spurring more in-depth and insightful orientations towards NNS varieties from the students. The orientation of the management participants, which had more to do with how NNS/WE varieties of English influence their recruitment and selection decisions, were collated through interviews. The findings showed that although both stakeholder groups identify with the need for, and importance of socio-cultural integration, their linguistic orientations towards NNS/WE varieties of English, were negative and influenced by subjective judgements that favour the upholding of SE or NS based standards and competences over WE or NNS ones. The findings also particularly showed that even when NNS/WE speakers are intelligible, the varieties of English they possess is not considered worthy of acceptance for academic, scholarly or teaching roles in the supposedly ‘international’ or ‘internationalising’ Higher Education environments. It was therefore concluded that there appears to be contradictions in the equal opportunities and diversity claims within the two International Higher Education institutions surveyed when it comes to linguistic communicative realities involving the use of the English language as a lingua franca. This is because, while the rhetoric projects the propagation of inclusivity and integration, the reality with major stakeholders appears to still be in sharp contrast with the overall meaning of international accommodation, adaptation and acceptance, particularly as it concerns linguistic differences that are peculiar to Non-Native users of the English Language.
Supervisor: Roberts, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available