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UK launch of quality mark in English as medium of instruction

The UK’s national qualifications agency UK NARIC has launched a scheme together with Oxford EMI to rate the quality of English-taught university degrees worldwide.

EMI is a recognition that English is a lingua franca in international education particularly at Asian institutions. Photo: Wikicommons/ HKUST pao

A published list of EMI Quality Mark programs will be made available by UK NARIC

According to UK NARIC, there are no agreed guidelines nor a framework for implementing EMI programs, which are considered by institutions globally as a means to internationalise and to attract students.

Named EMI Quality Mark, the voluntary scheme will aim to accurately assess  how universities are managing their English medium degrees, with a focus on providing guidelines for continuous improvement.

“In terms of EMI growth, they don’t think there is a limit. Potentially, it could expand endlessly”

“There is a hope that by introducing this scheme you are encouraging people who are doing EMI to think more about how they are doing it and to put in place the kinds of support structures that you need to do it well,” said Steve Miller, head of communications at UK NARIC.

Providers will be rated as Gold, Silver, Bronze or Developing.

Courses rated as Developing will be presented with a report detailing improvement areas and guidance on work needed to achieve a higher level.

The quality scheme will evaluate four areas: context and management; teaching and learning; admissions and student support; and assessment and student outcomes.

And institutions will be able to use the Quality Mark as an additional marketing tool to attract students – a published list of EMI Quality Mark  programs will be made available by UK NARIC.

English-taught degrees have seen an explosive growth in recent years. In 2017, research found a fifty-fold increase in the number of English-taught bachelor’s available in Europe since 2009.

According to DAAD, English-taught master’s programs made a significant impact in increasing the number of international students in Germany in 2016.

“If you are looking at EMI in the higher education sector, the real growth has been in the last five years,” Miller told The PIE News.

“[Oxford EMI] are saying to us, in terms of EMI growth, they don’t think there is a limit. Potentially, it could expand endlessly.”

For Oxford EMI, EMI shouldn’t be about a 100% anglicisation of university courses.

“It’s more of a process of internationalisation. For institutions in Asia, it’s a recognition that English is a lingua franca in international education,” related Miller.

“You’ve got to put in the support for the teaching staff,…and you’ve got to put in a bit of structure”

Using EMI in the curriculum is a genuine way to internationalise a institution’s offering. But doing so in an unstructured way can cause problems, he explained.

“You’ve got to put in the support for the teaching staff, you’ve got to put in the proper provision, and you’ve got to put in a bit of structure.”

Director of education and society: Americas at the British Council, John Bramwell, welcomed the move forward in a rapidly developing sector.

“The recent scale of growth… presents a different level of challenge, and perhaps now is a good time to provide a service of support from the UK – where international respect for quality in subject learning and student development is high,” he said.

Countries are increasingly adopting strategic investment into EMI, Bramwell highlighted, “not only to improve individual English language competence, but to better connect that learning with communication and engagement globally in their area of knowledge”.

The scheme would be helpful for institutions targeting improvement, but may be misinterpreted by others, he explained. A ‘traffic light’ certificate may endanger academic cooperation on EMI, for example.

“Should a potential collaborative partner avoid ‘developing’ EMI institutions or departments for example, in favour of ‘gold’? The spectre of yet another measure of international rankings looms.”

Bramwell also noted the importance of protecting diversity and innovation in teaching and learning.

“EMI is no substitute for stronger and wider [foreign] language competence in English speaking countries”

“An approach towards homogeneity would be counter productive. Mechanisms for knowledge acquisition and application are developing at different rates and in different ways across countries.”

He added that while the British Council will continue to support mechanisms and structures that enable growth in internationalism, and the use of EMI worldwide, it recognises the importance of foreign language learning, research and communication.

“EMI is no substitute for stronger and wider [foreign] language competence in English speaking countries, particularly in the UK.”

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