“I just wanted to learn Japanese and visit Japan”: The incentives and attitudes of international students in English-Medium Instruction programmes in Japan.

Nicola Galloway, Samantha Curle

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With growth in English-Medium of Instruction (EMI) in higher education, there have been increasing calls for research on this expansion, particularly the challenges facing students. Despite the growth in international students and ambitious target recruitment numbers in places like Japan, much of the EMI research to date focuses on home students. This article reports on a study with international students enrolled on EMI programmes in six Japanese universities. Data was collected using open-ended questionnaires (n=102), interviews (n=10) at four of the six universities, and 3 focus groups (Japanese and international students) at three of the six universities. Results show that unlike home students, international student enrollment in EMI programmes is not linked to goals to improve English proficiency; many are simply interested in Japan or learning Japanese. While students recognized the benefits of EMI, they discussed numerous challenges, particularly language-related issues in classrooms where they study with students of varying levels of English proficiency. This study provides key insights into EMI policy implementation and the needs of an important group of stakeholders who have long been high on the government’s internationalization agenda in Japan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Language Studies
Issue number2
Early online date25 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP - funded by the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC)). Her main research interest lies in factors affecting academic achievement in EMI. Her research has been published in journals such as Language Teaching, Applied Linguistics Review, System, Language Teaching Research, Studies in Higher Education, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, Journal for the Psychology of Language Learning, Journal of Education and Work, and Journal of Asia TEFL. She is also an editor for the journal Data in Brief. She has published three edited books on EMI: Research Methods in English Medium Instruction (by Routledge), English-Medium Instruction in Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa (by Bloomsbury) and The use of technology in English medium education (by Springer).

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the British Council for funding the larger project. The study would also not have been possible without the help of many colleagues working at various universities across Japan. We would also like to thank the participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 IJLS; Printed in the USA by Lulu Press Inc.


  • English Taught Programmes (ETPs)
  • English-Medium of Instruction (EMI)
  • Higher Education (HE)
  • International Students
  • Internationalization
  • Japan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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