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Nordic countries lead Europe in English-taught programmes

The Nordic region has the greatest proportion of English Taught Programmes (ETPs) in Europe at HE level, according to a recent study by the Academic Cooperation Association.

University of Helsinki in Finland. Photo: Bernt RostadUniversity of Helsinki in Finland. Photo: Bernt Rostad

These countries boast the highest proportion of students enrolled in ETPs, at 5 per cent

The report, English-Taught Programmes in European Higher Education, found that 61% of higher education institutions in the Nordic region are offering Bachelor’s or Master’s programmes taught entirely in English. This is compared to 32% offering the same in 2007.

And the proportion of study programmes that are provided entirely in English is at 20% in the Nordic region.

These countries also boast the highest proportion of students enrolled in ETPs, at 5%, compared with the 1.3% average European enrolment rate.

All five Nordic countries have ranked in the Top 12 ETP ‘leaders’ after looking at three factors: the proportion of HE institutions in the country offering ETPs, the proportion of ETPs of all programmes, and the enrolment of ETPs compared with the country’s total HE enrolment.

Markus Laitinen, vice president of EAIE and head of international affairs at the University of Helsinki, told The PIE News that ETPs are necessary to attract international students to study in Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

“International relations and international students are a definite quality aspect when it comes to higher education. Not only do you want to measure against everybody else in the field, but also you want to increase the diversity of your campus life,” he said.

In 2014, there were 8,089 programmes taught in English; a significant increase from 2,389 seven years ago

“We cannot really expect to do anything significant in this respect if we rely on our domestic languages, Finnish and Swedish, because they are hardly spoken outside our borders or the general area, so the only way for us to really make a dent when it comes to the number of international students is to use English.”

Despite this region demonstrating the most ETPs, the number has risen in higher education institutions across the whole continent. In 2014, there were 8,089 programmes taught in English; a significant increase from 2,389 seven years ago.

However, there is a clear north-south divide in Europe when it comes to the proportion of institutions hosting ETPs, and the proportion of ETPs compared with all study programmes.

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The southern regions of Europe have significantly less ETPs compared with the north, which is likely defined by the spread of the domestic languages.

“The Nordic languages are very small,” commented Jenny Wiik, the director of Master studies in the journalism, media and communications department at Gothenburg University in Sweden.

“We need to change to English to be able to reach out to international students and colleagues. Spanish and German have their own language communities, but Nordic countries are nowadays more turned towards the Anglo-American sphere.”

Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway are also ranked as four of the top five countries in the EF English proficiency index, alongside The Netherlands, demonstrating the importance of English in the Nordic region. Spain, Portugal, Italy and France were categorised with ‘moderate proficiency’.

“English is not spoken as much in some of the countries in South Europe,” said Laitinen. “This limits the schools and universities to start rolling out programmes and courses in English. This is somewhat more limited than in our neck of the woods.”

He added: “Secondly, some of the countries already have a language which is more widely-spoken, for example, Italian and especially Spanish and French, are much bigger languages than Danish and Swedish. There hasn’t been perhaps a clear push or not so much of a demand for English as in our case.”

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