Studying in a 'multilingual university' at home or abroad: perspectives of home and international students in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Wales

Josep Maria Cots, Peter Garrett, David Lasagabaster.
Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education

The relatively recent phenomenon of the internationalisation of higher education (HE) in European non-English speaking universities has resulted in more linguistically diverse student bodies and has forced universities in bilingual territories to reconsider their language policies. In this paper, we adopt a student perspective in order to explore the notion of a multilingual university in the bilingual territories of Catalonia, Wales and the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC). This also includes looking at how the students view the relationship and possible tensions between internationalisation (and its concomitant student mobility) and the language policies. In order to investigate the attitudes and beliefs of the students (both home and international) in connection with the notion of a multilingual university, we asked them to complete an open-ended questionnaire item regarding the advantages and disadvantages they see in such an institution. The results of the analysis point, in the first place, to different perceptions among students of a multilingual university depending on (i) whether English is the main or even sole means of instruction, and on (ii) the perceived status of the minority language. Secondly, the analysis suggests the need to approach students’ attitudes towards a multilingual university by considering the ways in which the sociolinguistic context (in official, academic and experiential terms) may have an impact on their perception of the process of multilingualisation in universities.