What counts as English in the internationalised Australian university: Implications for teaching and learning

Kettle, Margaret A. (2011) What counts as English in the internationalised Australian university: Implications for teaching and learning. In British Educational Research Association (BERA), 6-8 September 2011, University of London, London. (Unpublished)


English is currently ascendant as the language of globalisation, evident in its mediation of interactions and transactions worldwide. For many international students, completion of a degree in English means significant credentialing and increased job prospects. Australian universities are the third largest English-speaking destination for overseas students behind the United States and the United Kingdom. International students comprise one-fifth of the total Australian university population, with 80% coming from Asian countries (ABS, 2010).

In this competitive higher education market, English has been identified as a valued ‘good’. Indeed, universities have been critiqued for relentlessly reproducing the “hegemony and homogeneity of English” (Marginson, 2006, p. 37) in order to sustain their advantage in the education market. For international students, English is the gatekeeper to enrolment, the medium of instruction and the mediator of academic success. For these reasons, English is not benign, yet it remains largely taken-for-granted in the mainstream university context. This paper problematises the naturalness of English and reports on a study of an Australian Master of Education course in which English was a focus. The study investigated representations of English as they were articulated across a chain of texts including the university strategic plan, course assessment criteria, student assignments, lecturer feedback, and interviews. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Foucault’s work on discourse enabled understandings of how a particular English is formed through an apparatus of specifications, exclusionary thresholds, strategies for maintenance (and disruption), and privileged concepts and speaking positions.

The findings indicate that English has hegemonic status within the Australian university, with material consequences for students whose proficiency falls outside the thresholds of accepted English practice. Central to the constitution of what counts as English is the relationship of equivalence between standard written English and successful academic writing. International students’ representations of English indicate a discourse that impacts on identities and practices and preoccupies them considerably as they negotiate language and task demands. For the lecturer, there is strategic manoeuvring within the institutional regulative regime to support students’ English language needs using adapted assessment practices, explicit teaching of academic genres and scaffolded classroom interaction. The paper concludes with the implications for university teaching and learning.

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ID Code: 90642
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: English, Second language learning, Second language acquisition, Second language education, Global English, Academic English, Politics of English, International Higher Education
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified (130399)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 The Author
Deposited On: 24 Nov 2015 00:34
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2015 00:34

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