English as an international language in higher education:
: A collective case study of degree programmes in UK universities

  • Jaime Kim

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


In recent years, the shifting sociolinguistic realities of English have been challenging L1 English hegemony in English language education. In today’s notion of English as an international language (EIL), diversity is the underlying element that is respected and utilised rather than to be moulded into unified forms for effective communication (Canagarajah, 2015; Pennycook, 2009). In the context of higher education, however, L1 English as a default academic lingua franca is still a deep-rooted idea, particularly in academic writing and publishing (Lillis & Curry, 2010; Seidlhofer, 2012). With the growing importance of internationalisation of higher education (IHE), the scholars and researchers emphasised the need for recognising the importance of the contexts of language (Lillis & Turner, 2001; McGrath & Kaufhold, 2016; Murray & Nallaya, 2016) and linguistic diversity (Canagarajah, 2013; Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur, 2011; Leung, Lewkowicz, & Jenkins, 2016) in academic discourse. Yet, prior research in EIL in academic settings has mainly focused on the experiences and perspectives of L2 English students while those of lecturers were rarely investigated although they are at the front line of the internationalisation phenomenon. This study looked at the use of English from academics’ perspectives by investigating the conceptualisation of appropriate academic English use in three broad disciplines: engineering, science and social science. The data were mainly drawn from in-depth, vignette and stimulated recall interviews of eight academics who were teaching either undergraduate honours or postgraduate taught programmes in three UK universities, as well as from the documents that provided background information of each programme. The findings of the study show that the use of disciplinary conventions and the level of intelligibility played an important role in the participants’ judgement of the appropriate academic English use, which was greatly influenced by their particular disciplinary and institutional communities of practice respectively. The findings also indicated that the lack of systematic support on internationalising pedagogic practice may result in the inconsistency of academics’ approaches to incorporating intercultural and sociolinguistic awareness into their practice. The study provides the implications and suggestions for further research for academics and universities to improve their competitiveness in the market, where the diversity of culture and English is greatly valued.
Date of Award20 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorReka Ratkaine Jablonkai (Supervisor), Gail Forey (Supervisor), Katie Dunworth (Supervisor) & Santiago Sanchez (Supervisor)


  • English as an international language
  • Internationalisation of higher education
  • academic staff

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