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Bi and multilingual universities – Challenges and future prospects Helsinki University 2005. English, a cuckoo in the European higher education nest of languages? Robert Phillipson Faculty of Languages, Communication, and Cultural Studies Copenhagen Business School.

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bi and multilingual universities challenges and future prospects helsinki university 2005
Bi and multilingual universities –Challenges and future prospectsHelsinki University 2005

English, a cuckoo in the European higher education nest of languages?

Robert Phillipson

Faculty of Languages, Communication,

and Cultural Studies

Copenhagen Business School

eu policies for europe 2010 a partnership for european renewal
EU policies for ‘Europe 2010:A partnership for European renewal’

a Europe of freedom

  • Knowledge economy
  • European education and research area
  • European public space
  • European Justice Space

Europe as polysemic: toponym, politonym, ethnonym, econonym, or linguonym?

Europe not a meaningful concept for the young

Equally opaque: freedom, education, research

the bologna process the internationalisation of higher education
The Bologna process, the internationalisation of higher education

45 member states, Australia and the USA as observers, EU Commission as participant and funder

  • Bologna 1999 … objectives - within the framework of our institutional competences and taking full respect of the diversity of cultures, languages, national education systems and of University autonomy - to consolidate a European Higher Education Area at the latest by 2010
  • Bergen 19-20 May 2005: structural uniformity, quality, mobility, recognition, joint degrees, attractiveness, competitiveness

nothing on bilingual degrees or multilingualism

internationalisation = English-medium education?

president london metropolitan university cam cambridge alumni magazine easter 2005
President, London Metropolitan UniversityCAM Cambridge Alumni Magazine, Easter 2005

”As a result of the Bologna process, 45 European countries have agreed to implement a Bachelor/Masters degree structure. The concept of the bi-lingual university is already being widely discussed in eastern Europe;

you can now do a medical degree in English in Hungary , for example.

And that’s a trend that is going to continue.”

  • The emergence of English as the international language of higher education has had an enormous impact, agrees Liping Zhou …

who warns against an excessive focus on English.

the view from central europe mikl s kontra
The view from central Europe,Miklós Kontra
  • The concept of bilingual universities is NOT widely discussed (conference last autumn), and none exist (e.g. for linguistic minorities in Carpathian basin).
  • The medical degree in English in Hungary pre-dates the fall of the iron curtain. Target population is foreigners, mainly Third World, now broader, since the quality is good, and cheaper than in western Europe. Membership of the EU may change all this.
  • Teaching through English (and German) is pure money-making.

European Association for International Education, Occasional paper 17, July 2005.Michael Woolf, President, Foundation for International Education, London

I gotta use words when I talk to you:

English and international education.

  • internationalisation does not need to entail learning or operating in a foreign language, i.e. English alone is enough,
  • privatisation and the law of the market are desirable, i.e. higher education should no longer be seen as a common good,
  • English can be detached from its cultural origins and studied merely as a tool, i.e. the language is promoted as though it is culturally neutral and detached from the globalising, internationalising forces that impel the language forward,
  • alternative views are based on ‘worn and tired assumptions’ that contribute to ‘atrophy, irrelevance and stagnation’. Us lot?
Christensen, Nicolette deVille 2005. The role of English language in international education: an American perspective
  • “The citizens of the world have positioned English language as a common bond not just for Anglo nations, but for the entire world, so allow English to be the language in which we can cultivate global literacy.”
  • reciprocity in collaborative ventures involving a US sending university and a European receiving university is “to strive for academic excellence as defined by the sending institution.”
  • Cuckoos are parasitical, their fledglings the sole survivors in the nests they occupy. But are they environmentally sustainable?

Pirkko Vartiainen, The legitimacy of evaluation. A comparison of Finnish and English institutional evaluations of higher education. Frankfurt a M: Peter Lang, 2004.

University autonomy is effectively the norm in Finland (a country with an exceptionally successful economy and school system), even if largely funded by the state, whereas in England it is the privilege of elite universities, because of the coercive evaluation procedures, designed to rank goodies and baddies, and reward them accordingly, rather than seeing evaluation as an ongoing process that can strengthen institutional planning, mission and quality.

The ‘international quality’ that all universities are supposed to strive for is not a gold standard but one that can be reached by many routes, and that coercive policies counteract.

An example of coercive funding in the British higher education market, reported in CAM Cambridge Alumni Magazine, Easter 2005

There are two universities in Cambridge.

As a result of the Research Assessment Exercise, the Higher Education Funding Council for England will allocate funding for 2005-2006 as follows:

  • Anglia Polytechnic: £0.68 million
  • University of Cambridge: £92.4 million
all one s eggs in one basket nest and thanks to bourdieu
All one’s eggs in one basket/nest?(and thanks to Bourdieu)
  • some universities have greater financial capital,
  • which they can convert into intellectual capital, research productivity and productive research environments,
  • using and generating linguistic capital in the globally most marketable language, English.


  • linguistic monocultures are not sustainable
  • ALL universities need to build up multilingual linguistic capital
  • further analysis requires conceptual and empirical clarification: Is English a lingua academica or a lingua tyrannosaura? Are Danish/Estonian/French/German/… being cuckolded?
scandinavian moves to strengthen multilingualism in schools
Scandinavian moves to strengthen multilingualism in schools

Gymnasieskolans fördjupningskurser i matematik och andra moderna språk än engelska bör ges ett större värde vid antagning till högre utbildning.

Utbildnings- och kulturdepartementet

14 juni 2005,

Språk åpner dører! Strategi for styrkning av fremmedspråk i grunnopplæringen 2005-2009

Utdannings- og forskningsdepartementet, Oslo, juni 2005,

rektorkollegiet internationalisering af de danske universiteter vilk r og virkemidle r 2004
Rektorkollegiet Internationalisering af de danske universiteter, vilkår og virkemidler, 2004
  • To retain and attract the best students in competition with foreign universities;
  • to persuade government to provide universities with better conditions for internationalisation;
  • to strike a balance between the role of universities as Danish research and teaching institutions, using Danish for these purposes, and the need to strengthen international collaboration in research and teaching, which requires competence in foreign languages, particularly English.
rektorkollegiet internationalisering af de danske universiteter vilk r og virkemidle r 20041
Rektorkollegiet Internationalisering af de danske universiteter, vilkår og virkemidler, 2004

1. choice of languages of instruction for specific degrees,

2. the languages of teaching materials,

3. quality control when English is used by non-native speakers, and in-service training,

4. Danish for foreign students,

5. the languages of university publicity and regulations; proficiency requirements for university employees dealing with foreign students, teachers and researchers;

6. the language competence of new students, and teaching and research staff, including access to Danish.

7. strengthening the foreign language and intercultural competence of all students,

8. languages of publication by researchers.

development strategy of the estonian language 2004 2010 higher education objectives
Development strategy of the Estonian Language 2004-2010: Higher education objectives
  • to be able to continue to offer Estonian-medium higher education
  • to promote this by supporting all specialities with terminological dictionaries and Estonian-language educational literature,
  • to ‘publish major research results also in the Estonian language’,
  • to avoid the development of the exclusive use of foreign languages in any field of science,
  • to ensure a high level of proficiency in Estonian among university graduates.
uk economy at risk warns british council if it doesn t invest in international education
UK economy at risk, warns British Council,if it doesn’t invest ininternational education
  • The goal is 8 per cent annual growth across the sector, and to double the present number of 35,000 research graduates contributing to the UK’s knowledge economy by 2020.
  • 500,000+ attend language learning courses p.a. <>
corporatisation education as a market opportunity
Corporatisation: Education as a market opportunity
  • ”The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.”
  • Registered in England as a charity.
  • The UK economy benefits by £11 billion p.a. directly, and a further £12 billion indirectly, from international education.
the economics of language transfers to the uk ireland
The economics of language:transfers to the UK & Ireland

The current dominance of English results in quantifiable

  • privileged market effects
  • communication savings effects
  • language learning savings effects
  • alternative human capital investment effects
  • legitimacy and rhetorical effects

Continental countries are transferring to the UK & Ireland at least € 10bn per year, more probably about € 16 to 17 bn a year (cf budget rebate of € 5bn annually)

Grin, François, à paraître/forthcoming2005: L'enseignement des langues étrangères comme politique publique. Rapport au Haut Conseil de l'évaluation de l'école, Paris, n° 19,

australian higher education expansion
Australian higher education expansion
  • ‘international’ students have increased by over 600% over a twelve-year period, providing an income for Australian universities of over 2 billion Australian dollars in 2002.
  • Of the 185,000 international students, one third are ‘offshore … who study largely within their own countries’ (ibid.).

Harman, in Ninnes, Peter & Meeri Hellstén (eds.) 2005. Internationalizing higher education. Critical explorations of pedagogy and policy, Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, and Springer.

something fishy offshore
Something fishy offshore?

John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, reports that in international activities, his English is ’more difficult to understand than the English of my continental colleagues, simply because this is a functional language for communication between second-language users, and my variety is a functional language for communication between native speakers.’

Need for research into ’English as a Lingua Franca’, both in speech (Anna Mauranen, Juliane House, Barbara Seidlhofer) and in writing (Mauranen, John Swales).

Need for research into the English of native speakers involved with ’international students’?

international students in uk universities and colleges broadening horizons 2004 www ukcosa org uk
International Students in UK Universities and colleges: Broadening Horizons, 2004
  • non-English students have difficulty in getting British students to recognize that their ways of being and perceiving are equally relevant: UK students ‘always feel that they are on the right side in terms of opinion, and in the way of thinking’, cited by Hilary Footitt in the Newsletter of the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton, 8, February 2005, <>.
  • The study of foreign languages in higher education in UK needs strengthening so as to ensure that ‘internationalisation’ is not merely seen as ‘cultural colonising’.
multilingual higher education
Multilingual higher education?
  • Leuven, Belgium: ‘a language policy, which departs from the conviction that the introduction of English-medium instruction will be unproblematic, will most probably not lead to the hoped for internationalisation of the university’ (Sercu, 553);
  • Maastricht, the Netherlands: ‘merely offering programmes through a foreign language without setting performance targets in the use of content-related language puts the quality and the reputation of both the programme and the institution at risk’, (Wilkinson, 10).

Wilkinson, Robert (ed,) 2004. Integrating content and language: Meeting the challenge of a multilingual higher education. Maastricht University, the Netherlands

the invading cuckoo domain loss
The invading cuckoo: domain loss
  • Domains: commerce (corporate language), research publication (monolingualism), higher education (medium of instruction), media (Hollywood McDonaldisation), EU affairs, …
  • pilot studies of the Nordic languages: Höglin, R. (2002) Engelska språket som hot och tillgång i Norden. Copenhagen: Nordiska Ministerrådet.
  • Domain loss: a seemingly innocuous term, deceptive, like ‘language spread’, implying a natural, agent-less process.
  • (Linguistic) capital accumulation by dispossession, (Harvey, The new imperialism, 2005, chapter 4). As in the commercial world in its global pursuit of markets and profit, some combination of internal motivation and external pressure contributes to this trend.
  • The extent of domain loss/dispossession is unknown.
factors contributing to the increased use of english in europe
Factors contributing to the increased use of English in Europe
  • Table 1 of English-only Europe? Challenging language policy, lists 10 structural, 5 ideological
  • many push and pull factors, glocalisation, multiple agents
  • different cosmologies in national linguistic cultures
  • diverse university & research world policies
  • immobility at the supranational EU level:

language policy ’explosive’ (the French)

language policy ’emotional’ (the Germans)

strengthens market forces and English, as do the working practices of the European Commission.

naidoo jamieson s review of higher education identifies three major trends globally 2005 44
Naidoo & Jamieson’s review of higher education identifies three majortrends globally (2005, 44)
  • 1. the public university as a public good is under attack,
  • 2. the tandem of GATS decreeing that education is a commodity and corporations converting this claim into reality,
  • 3. eLearning is facilitating these processes;

together these are ‘resulting in the gradual commodification of higher education’ (ibid.)

  • 2000 corporate universities worldwide, including 200 ‘for-profit higher education corporations in Poland; 600 in Malaysia; and 625 in the USA’

Ninnes, Peter & Meeri Hellstén (eds.) 2005. Internationalizing higher education. Critical explorations of pedagogy and policy, Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, and Springer.

brave new higher education world suggestive trends in denmark
Brave new higher education world? Suggestive trends in Denmark
  • Payment for Masters degree courses and/or modules
  • Payment for Open University courses
  • Non-EU students to pay fees
  • ’The market for fee-paying degree students is a growing one. The CBS must capture a share of this in order to build a profile as a truly international university… a market-based price on our programs… The next – and far more difficult – step would be to introduce tuition fees for EU students and (in order to avoid discrimination) Danish students.’ (CBS draft internationalization Strategic Plan, June 2005)
journalistic presentation
Journalistic presentation

Finland’s postgrads shun mother tongue

Half of the masters courses offered by Finnish universities during the next academic year will be taught in English, according to education ministry planners. Originally developed for foreign students, these courses are now popular with local students.

The Guardian Weekly, Learning English supplement, 19 August 2005

This development does not necessarily mean linguistic dispossession for the individual or the instutition - cf. Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and the explicit language policy of Finnish universities, e.g. Jyväskylä.

fluidity in language policy in europe
Fluidity in language policy in Europe
  • unresolved tension between linguistic nationalism (monolingualism), EU institutional multilingualism, and English becoming dominant in the EU
  • competing agendas at the European, state (national), and sub-statal levels
  • increasing grassroots and elite bi- and multilingualism, except in the UK and among the older generation in demographically large EU countries,
  • largely uncritical adoption of englishisation, lingua economica/americana
  • rhetoric of language rights, some national and supranational implementation, and advocacy of linguistic diversity.
one europe one language
One Europe? One language?

Spanish Foreign Secretary, Ana Palacio, El País, 16 December 2002

“The motto ‘One Europe’, solely in English, requires a reflection. Even though Copenhagen did not face the question of languages, this is one of the pending subjects that sooner rather than later must be debated for the very survival and viability of this project of Europe with a world vocation. Within it, Spanish, one of the official UN languages, spoken by more than 400 million people in more than 20 countries, must take on the place it is entitled to.”

linguistic unification of europe
Linguistic unification of Europe?

The most serious problem for the European Union that it has so many languages, this preventing real integration and development of the Union.

USA ambassador to Denmark, Mr Elton, 1997

English should be the sole official language of the European Union

Director, British Council, Germany, 26 February 2002, in

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Newsweek interviewer, 31 May 2004:

A unified Europe in which English, as it turns out, is the universal language?

Romano Prodi:

It will be broken English, but it will be English.

europe is multilingual
Europe is multilingual

English, in fact, is not and will not be the “language of Europe”.

Etienne Balibar, We, the people of Europe, Reflections on transnational citizenship,

Princeton University Press, 2004, 177

Translation is the ‘idiom of Europe’

Steiner, Eco, Balibar, Bauman

nordbors spr kliga r ttigheter
Nordbors språkliga rättigheter
  • at tillägna sig ett samhällsbärande språk
  • förståelse av de skandinaviska språk
  • språk med internationell räckvidd, som engelska, spanska, franska m.fl.
  • att bevara och utveckla sitt modersmål

målen – språkforståelse – parallellspråkighet – mång- och flerspråkighet – Norden som språklig föregångsregion

language rights of nordic residents
Language rights of Nordic residents
  • to learn the language of society as a whole
  • comprehension of Scandinavian languages
  • languages of international utility, like English, Spanish, French etc.
  • maintaining and developing the mother tongue

goals – comprehension – parallel competence – multi- and plurilingualism – the Nordic region as a language model

EU CommissionPromoting language learning and linguistic diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006, 24 July 2003
  • learning one lingua franca alone is not enough
  • English alone is not enough
  • In non-anglophone countries recent trends to provide teaching in English may have unforeseen consequences on the vitality of the national language.
EU CommissionPromoting language learning and linguistic diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006, 24 July 2003

The range of languages for learning:

  • the smaller languages as well as the larger ones
  • regional, minority and migrant languages as well as those with ’national’ status, and
  • the languages of our major trading partners throughout the world.
nederlans taalunie website
Nederlans Taalunie website
  • essential to guarantee that Dutch language can remain a ‘full-scale’ language (…) The first and foremost challenge … is to see that Dutch can remain a language of instruction in higher education
  • National language policy cannot do all the work – the framework is European - we need to convince governments and the European institutions of the necessity of a real European language policy.
obstacles to supranational europe wide language policy 1
Obstacles to supranational, Europe-wide language policy (1)
  • poor infrastructure nationally(except possibly in Finland and Catalonia, perhaps in Sweden after legislation)and supranationally
  • weak infrastructure in research
  • international coordination among national language bodies is in its infancy
  • language policy is politically untouchable at inter-governmental level; it remained untouched by the Convention on the Future of Europe and in the draft Constitutional Treaty
obstacles to supranational europe wide language policy 2
Obstacles to supranational, Europe-wide language policy (2)
  • EU translation and interpretation services are impressive in many respects, but subject to an economic rationale, see themselves as a service function rather than policy-making, and are detached from international research
  • The language of EU written texts is increasingly under attack (Koskinen, Tosi, Lundkvist & Gabrielsen), even if the translation industry and translation technology are of increasing importance (see Michael Cronin Translation and globalization, Routledge 2003)
  • The rhetoric of EU multilingualism and linguistic equality is seen as a charade by some political scientists (de Swaan) and sociolinguists (Chaudenson)
towards longer term language policy formation
Towards longer termlanguage policy formation?
  • European Agency for Linguistic Diversity and Language Learning (Yellow Window Management Consultants)
  • Member states report back to the EU on implementation of the Action Plan
  • Jan Figel is the first Commissioner with a direct responsibility fo language policy, but with the exception of some language services, the EU does not live up to ideals of multilingualism, linguistic equality or equity
  • Universities and governments must therefore act
linguistic neoimperialism
Linguistic neoimperialism
  • Linguistic neoimperialism: the maintenance of inequalities between speakers of English and other languages, within a framework of exploitative dominance, through penetration, fragmentation, marginalisation, and supremacist ideologies in discourse;
  • explores these phenomena in the information society with corporate globalisation and multiple networks, analysing (discourse, agency,…) how power is inequitably created through linguistic hierarchies, debunking myths of ’choice’, of English as ’neutral’;
  • in education and English teaching, anglocentricity (form, hegemonic symbols) and the disconnection from power hierarchies (functions) continues.
cuckoos must be kept in check by the vitality of the species on which they are parasitical
Cuckoos must be kept in check by the vitality of the species on which they are parasitical
  • Universitiesmust remain a public good and resist commodification and coercive policies
  • Many languages must continue to serve as lingua economica
  • English as a lingua academica must be in balance with strong local language ecologies, which presupposes strong national language policies
  • The education system must evolve strategies for students and staff to become effectively trilingual (at least) in a diverse range of languages
living with cuckoos
Living with cuckoos

There are 127 species of cuckoo worldwide, of which 42 in Europe. This matches pretty well with Englishes worldwide, and in Europe – except that new species of English are evolving rapidly. We need to learn to live with them, and promote biological and linguistic diversity.

All language communities have the right to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage, Dalai Lama

Words are no deeds, William Shakespeare

I am adapting the text of my lecture so that it can appear, in a slightly modified form, as an article in the

European Journal of English Studies.