Motivations to enrol in EMI programmes in China: An exploratory study

Janina Iwaniec, Weihong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (SciVal)


A recent interest in English Medium Instruction (EMI) has led to the flourishing of studies that examine motivation in EMI classrooms. Some of these studies tend to compare language learning motivation of students who are and are not enrolled in EMI programmes (see e.g. Doiz, Aintzane, David Lasagabaster & Juan Manuel Sierra. 2014. CLIL and motivation: The effect of individual and contextual variables. The Language Learning Journal 42(2). 209-224; Sylvén, Liss Kerstin & Amy S. Thompson. 2015. Language learning motivation and CLIL: Is there a connection? Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education 3(1). 28-50), showing that EMI learners are typically more motivated than their peers in non-EMI contexts. This has led to the common perception that learners enrol in EMI primarily to improve their English. Yet, there is a dearth of comprehensive studies exploring learners' reasons behind their enrolment in EMI programmes and how these change throughout their studies. To address this gap, 247 university students from a range of universities across China filled in the questionnaire, which included scales pertaining to reasons for choosing an EMI programme. The data were analysed in SPSS. The results show that enhanced future job opportunities, opportunities for contact with an international community as well as potential gains in learning content and language specific vocabulary are the most strongly endorsed drivers that motivate EMI students to undertake their studies in English. They also tend to pursue their ideal visions of themselves as bilingual professionals and derive pleasure from EMI classes. To a lesser extent, students are motivated by what is expected of them and the actual pedagogy in the language classroom. Their motivation tends to stay stable over their years of study. However, the survey also revealed that not all students are equally motivated and resolved to continue with EMI studies. The findings highlight that, whereas students tend to be strongly motivated, there is a potential to improve the delivery of EMI courses.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Issue number6
Early online date5 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research funding: Research for this study was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for Central China Universities, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan.


  • Chinese universities
  • English medium instruction (EMI)
  • motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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