Language Policy in Higher Education


Vila, F. Xavier i Bretxa, Vanessa (ed.). 2015. «Language Policy in Higher Education. The Case of Medium-Sized Languages» Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

In today’s increasingly interconnected, knowledge-based world, language policy in higher education is rapidly becoming a crucial area for all societies aiming to play a part in the global economy. The challenge is double faceted: how can universities retain their crucial role of creating the intellectual elites who are indispensable for the running of national affairs and, at the same time, prepare their best-educated citizens for competition in a global market? To what extent is English really pushing other languages out of the academic environment? Drawing on the experience of several medium-sized language communities, this volume provides the reader with some important insights into how language policies can be successfully implemented. The different sociolinguistic contexts under scrutiny offer an invaluable comparative standpoint to understand what position can – or could – be occupied by each language at the level of higher education.

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Research into medium-sized language communities has revealed that higher education (teaching and research therein) is one of the areas of society most susceptible to processes of linguistic homogenization and in which medium-sized languages come under the greatest pressure. In the communities studied so far there is evidence of a clear contradiction between the presence of native languages and the growing pressure exerted by preferred lingua francas, in particular English, which – albeit at different rates in each context – grows each day as the international academic lingua franca.

Similarly, the reorganization of language use in academic settings is by no means uniform, and the policies adopted are numerous and highly diverse, from university systems in which English is barely used as a teaching language to systems which adopt it to a far greater degree and even systems that use a different international lingua franca. The aim of this workshop is not just compare the situations and the glottopolitical processes of different medium-sized languages in higher education settings, but to consider the linguistic, social, political and economic factors that condition the processes in each case. The workshop will explore the following issues:

  • Language use at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  • The position of medium-sized languages in university research.
  • Policies on linguistic requirements for native languages and lingua francas.
  • The motives behind the design of language policies.


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Date: Friday, 28th October 2011
Aula Magna. Universitat de Barcelona


9h Welcome
9.30h Introduction. F. Xavier Vila and the Vice-Rector for Students and Language Policy
10h The position of Catalan and other languages at Catalan universities - Eva Pons, University of Barcelona
11h The position of Danish and other languages at Danish universities - Hartmut Haberland and Bent Preisler, University of Copenhagen
12h Coffee break
12.30h The position of Finnish and other languages at Finnish universities - Sabine Ylönen, University of Jyväskylä
13.30h The position of medium-sized language communities in South Africa - Anne-Marie Beukes, University of Johannesburg
14.30h Lunch
16h The position of Hebrew and other languages at Israeli universities - Ram Drorit, Levinsky College of Education
17h The position of Czech and other languages at Czech Republic universitiesTamah Sherman, Charles University
18h Roundtable with all conference presenters. Moderator: – Vanessa Bretxa

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