How to kill two birds with one stone: EMI teachers' needs in higher education in China

Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen, Bin Gao, Baoqi Sun

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Since their implementation in China's tertiary education system two decades ago, EMI programmes have been reported largely less successful and more problematic than envisioned. Although portrayed as killing two birds with one stone, whereby both subject content learning and English language proficiency can be achieved in the same classroom, EMI has in reality been revealed to present a series of thorny problems, from teaching quality to learning achievements, from teachers' insufficient language proficiency to students' unsatisfactory academic outcomes. This paper addresses one of the critical issues in EMI implementation: what teachers need in order to bring about successful language learning as well as adequate subject content learning. Data sources include a questionnaire collected from different disciplinary programmes across universities in China (n = 158), and interviews of nine lecturers from both key and non-key universities. The results suggest that the needs of these EMI lecturers cover a variety of areas, including institutional support as well as needs for professional and pedagogical training. Our findings indicate that there are similarities and differences in teacher needs between key and non-key universities with regard to institutional support and training programmes. The findings suggest that epistemic environments as well as goal-oriented pedagogical activities and adequate discourse strategies are necessary to enhance the learning experience of the students, facilitate the integration of content and language learning, and empower teachers and students to identify the best classroom practices. The needs analysis is instrumental for developing both in-service and pre-service training programmes for EMI implementation in higher education and crucial if the goal of 'killing of two birds with one stone' is to be achieved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1513-1538
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Issue number6
Early online date29 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research funding : The study is funded by Internal funding of University of Bath’s International Funding Scheme: Developing Leadership and Pedagogical Knowledge Across International Boundaries. Project ID: VB-ED3BMT.


  • Chinese higher education
  • EMI
  • EMI training
  • institutional support
  • needs analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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