Virginia Smaragdaki

MA Education TEFL dissertation prize winner 2015

virginiaLanguage and Equity: a study into the attitudes of Chinese and Japanese students and their tutors towards language policy in a UK university. 

2015 was a very tiring, yet highly rewarding year, and I am incredibly happy to have successfully completed this MA and received the TEFL dissertation prize. I would therefore like to thank my supervisor, who inspired me in choosing my dissertation topic and provided invaluable guidance throughout the research process. I would also like to thank my tutors, the Lilian Voudouri Foundation, and all the tutors and students who participated in this research project, as well as my friends and family for their endless support.' 

Abstract

Nowadays a growing population of students leave their countries to obtain an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The development of English as a global language has meant that the majority of those students inevitably end up in English-speaking countries, such as Australia, the USA and the UK. However, and even though most Anglophone universities use their international nature as part of their promotional agenda, “they are in essence deeply national at the linguistic level” (Jenkins, 2011:927).In other words, many Anglophone educational institutions do not see a reason to conform to or at least understand the cultural values and linguistic difficulties of their international students. This study sought to examine the attitudes of ten Chinese and Japanese students and four tutors towards the language policy in the University of Birmingham, UK. Two methods were used in fulfilling this purpose; document analysis(in order to discover the linguistic strategies employed by the institution) and semi-structured interviews. Findings showed that while students faced a number of linguistic challenges which eventually hindered their academic performance, most of them seemed reluctant to challenge the University’s language policy decisions. Nonetheless, interviews with students also revealed there are some aspects of the policy which are in need of immediate attention. Interviews with tutors on the other hand revealed there is lack of guidance and institutional pressure in ensuring international students’ linguistic needs are met in and outside the academic classroom. Each of the four tutors had their own understanding of approaching international students, which depended on their linguistic background and professional experience. A number of suggestions are made on how Anglophone institutions can improve their language policies to accommodate the linguistic needs of multilingual students.