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International postgraduate students’ perceptions of their English in a UK university context

International postgraduate students’ perceptions of their English in a UK university context
International postgraduate students’ perceptions of their English in a UK university context
The internationalisation of UK universities has resulted in increasing numbers of international students, particularly at postgraduate level. Features such as internationalisation of the curriculum and global citizenship have largely ignored language, while research into international students’ experiences has revealed challenges at both the individual and the institutional level. With ‘international students’ used synonymously with ‘non-native English speakers’, issues reported are often language-related, and emphasis is placed on helping international students to meet language requirements. At the same time, scholarship in English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has drawn attention to ways in which non-native English speakers use English, but has largely focussed on non-Anglophone environments.

This project employed documentary analysis and interviews to investigate language policies in one UK university and the effects of these on international students’ perceptions of their English. Eighteen participants on postgraduate taught programmes each took part in two semi-structured interviews. Both document and interview data were analysed using a combination of qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis. The results show little consistency in language policies. While entry requirements demand demonstration of native-like English, this was not necessarily valued in assessment, and not always seen as relevant for oral interaction. Few lecturers appeared to adjust their own English, and none facilitated communication among students. On some modules, Chinese students were over-represented, resulting in little diversity and making interaction in English all but redundant. In-programme English provision was variable in its approach and perceived usefulness.

A range of factors interacted to affect perceptions. Participants’ beliefs about English, and their prior English learning and use, were significant, as were their experiences of using English socially. Thus, the effects of policy varied. For some, entry policy seemed to reinforce their orientation to English as a Native Language, and for many, oral interactions were significant, both in assessed group work and socially. The findings have implications for recruitment, language policy and pedagogy. Increased student diversity would be beneficial on some programmes. Policies regarding entry requirements and assessment could be reviewed in the light of ELF scholarship. Finally, intercultural communication training for all students, international and home, as well as for lecturers, should be implemented.
University of Southampton
Doubleday, Jill
5c06dab4-f7ea-4775-bf8b-fdd31833bc35
Doubleday, Jill
5c06dab4-f7ea-4775-bf8b-fdd31833bc35
Jenkins, Jennifer
7daf0457-86d0-4c08-af4b-79641d1f7fd0
Archibald, Alasdair
15b56a58-87df-4322-8367-70f4daff3f42

Doubleday, Jill (2018) International postgraduate students’ perceptions of their English in a UK university context. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 317pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The internationalisation of UK universities has resulted in increasing numbers of international students, particularly at postgraduate level. Features such as internationalisation of the curriculum and global citizenship have largely ignored language, while research into international students’ experiences has revealed challenges at both the individual and the institutional level. With ‘international students’ used synonymously with ‘non-native English speakers’, issues reported are often language-related, and emphasis is placed on helping international students to meet language requirements. At the same time, scholarship in English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has drawn attention to ways in which non-native English speakers use English, but has largely focussed on non-Anglophone environments.

This project employed documentary analysis and interviews to investigate language policies in one UK university and the effects of these on international students’ perceptions of their English. Eighteen participants on postgraduate taught programmes each took part in two semi-structured interviews. Both document and interview data were analysed using a combination of qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis. The results show little consistency in language policies. While entry requirements demand demonstration of native-like English, this was not necessarily valued in assessment, and not always seen as relevant for oral interaction. Few lecturers appeared to adjust their own English, and none facilitated communication among students. On some modules, Chinese students were over-represented, resulting in little diversity and making interaction in English all but redundant. In-programme English provision was variable in its approach and perceived usefulness.

A range of factors interacted to affect perceptions. Participants’ beliefs about English, and their prior English learning and use, were significant, as were their experiences of using English socially. Thus, the effects of policy varied. For some, entry policy seemed to reinforce their orientation to English as a Native Language, and for many, oral interactions were significant, both in assessed group work and socially. The findings have implications for recruitment, language policy and pedagogy. Increased student diversity would be beneficial on some programmes. Policies regarding entry requirements and assessment could be reviewed in the light of ELF scholarship. Finally, intercultural communication training for all students, international and home, as well as for lecturers, should be implemented.

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Published date: July 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 428631
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/428631
PURE UUID: f3f3cfa6-4d0d-4d3b-9c3f-635c67de9f1f

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Date deposited: 05 Mar 2019 17:30
Last modified: 22 Jul 2019 16:30

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