English medium of instruction in Chinese higher education: A systematic mapping review of empirical research

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In 2001, the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China issued guidelines to promote the quality of higher education and to advocate the expansion of the use of English (Ministry of Education (MoE). 2001. Guanyu jiaqiang gaodeng xuexiao benke jiaoxue gongzuo tigao jiaoxue zhiliang de ruogan yijian [Guidelines for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Teaching at Higher Education Institutions]. Available at: http://old.moe.gov.cn/publicfifiles/business/htmlfifiles/moe/moe_309/200412/4682.html). This paper reviews empirical studies in English and Chinese on EMI in Chinese higher education published from 2001 to 2019, during the last two decades since these guidelines were released. The review contributes to the field of EMI by documenting, analysing and synthesising empirical evidence and by situating EMI studies in China in the global trends of EMI research. The review aims to give an overview of studies targeted at both global and local audiences, therefore, publications in both English and Chinese were included. To select the Chinese articles the core journals indexed by CNKI were searched, and for the English articles, we used ERIC, IBSS, SCOPUS and WOS databases. After excluding theoretically oriented studies, literature reviews and commentaries, 42 articles remained. The in-depth analysis revealed that the main topics of these studies included the student perception, implementation and educational practices, and the role of language. We conclude that in general there are insufficient empirical studies, especially about EMI teachers' perspectives to inform policies and practices at the micro, meso and macro level. Based on the findings, directions for further research are identified and recommendations for methodological approaches for future studies are also made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1483-1512
Number of pages30
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Issue number6
Early online date30 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • China
  • EMI
  • Higher education
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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