Multilingualism at tertiary level: Achievements and challenges


Abstract  The effects of globalization can also be felt at tertiary level as reflected on the increasing importance attached to internationalisation by higher education institutions. In this process English has become the hegemonic language of the academy with the side effect that universities seem to be compelled to offer English-medium instruction (EMI) courses. Wilkinson (2013) points out that this mushrooming of EMI experiences has been accelerated by university rankings, as administrators want their institutions to attain the highest possible place in such rankings and English seems to play a paramount role when it comes to achieving this objective. This context has led bilingual institutions such as the University of the Basque Country (UBC) to deal with three languages in their different degrees. Since 1980 both Basque and Spanish have been used as means of instruction, but since 2005 English has been incorporated to the linguistic equation. In this paper I will put forward the results obtained in a study in which more than 800 members of the different university bodies (teachers, students and administration personnel) took part. The data were gathered through questionnaires, group discussions and interviews with a view to answering the following research question: What are the effects of the increasing presence of English through EMI courses on the three university bodies’ perceptions of the UBC’s trilingual language policy? The results indicate that the university community is mainly concerned about (i) the possible detrimental effects on Basque due to its minority status, and (ii) the fact that other foreign languages are being overshadowed by the hegemonic position of English.

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