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Title: English as a medium of instruction in Flemish higher education
Author: Splunder, Frank Van
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 7433
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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Due to the internationalization of European higher education, English has been gaining importance as a medium of instruction. This tendency may also be observed in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Yet, the Flemish government severely restricts the use of languages other than Dutch for teaching purposes. This monolingual policy contrasts sharply with the multilingual reality in Flanders, and has its roots in history. Belgium was constructed in 1830 as a French-speaking state, even though French was spoken by a minority. The Flemish majority and their language were effectively oppressed, and it was not until 1930 that Dutch was recognized as the language of higher education in Flanders. Language remains a sensitive issue in Belgium, and Flanders in particular has established close links between its language and identity. Alongside this essentialist attitude, a strong normative tradition may be observed, which may be linked to linguistic insecurity. As a result of the 'language struggle', language is commonly framed in terms of threat (from 'foreign' languages) and protection (of one's own language and culture). Yet, whereas in the past French was imposed from above, today's English is more readily accepted from below. The aim of my research was to analyse the policy and discourse on English-medium instruction (EMI) in a highly language-sensitive context. I analysed bottom-up (semi-public) discourse as well as top-down discourse (government and university policy), focusing on academic practices (EMI attitudes expressed by Flemish students and lecturers). I used a plurality of ('critical') methods, drawing on language policy research, discourse analysis, .~nd language attitudes research. I made use of texts (in their widest sense), questionnaires and interviews. The results reveal a dichotomy between political and academic discourse on EMI. Whereas the former is clearly ideological, the latter tends to be more pragmatic. Flemish students and lecturers in general express positive attitudes towards EMI, although they think some kind of regulation is necessary. Their attitudes are determined by a number of interrelated parameters, including age, experience, need, language command, and ideology. A culture shift has taken place in Flemish academia, in that English has replaced French as a second language, and it has arguably become the first academic language instead of Dutch (even though its use as a medium of instruction remains restricted). Many students and lecturers regard language in general - including foreign languages - as part of their identity, rather than (standard) Dutch only. The current language policy regarding EMI appears to be counterproductive, and may not be tenable in a globalizing academic environment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available