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£1M Future Leaders Fellowship to research why English-taught programmes are increasing across Europe

School children

An OU researcher has been awarded over £1M to explore why the use of English as a teaching language in non-English-speaking European countries is increasing, despite students struggling to understand it.

Dr Kristina Hultgren, Senior Lecturer (English Language/Applied Linguistics) in the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, has been awarded £1,137,501.62 from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship to lead the English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) project to get a better understanding of why English is so commonly used as a medium for teaching across Europe.

The prestigious Future Leaders Fellowships is a highly competitive scheme, funded by UK Research and Innovation, which supports the next generation of researchers to pursue ambitious and adventurous research programmes on truly challenging questions.

“Research into the use of English in teaching has shown that in the past few decades, higher education institutions in non-Anglophone Europe have seen a dramatic increase by more than 1,000% in English-taught programmes,” said Dr Hultgren

“But the question I will ask is why do countries suddenly decide to change the language of their educational system from students' home language, whether French, Dutch or something else, to one that students know less well, despite knowing that many students will struggle to understand what is being taught.”

This is just one of the questions that Dr Hultgren will research over the seven years of the Fellowship. She will approach this by bringing a team of linguists and political scientists together to adopt theoretical and methodological approaches from political science to conduct six in-depth case studies in HE institutions in three regions in Europe that are known to differ in the amount of EMI offered.

“This will allow us to arrive at both a contextually sensitive understanding and a generalisable model of why EMI happens and how it relates to priorities in contemporary academic governance,“ Dr Hultgren said.

“We will also explore different models of EMI across Europe in order to inform the development of a 'best practice' framework that will ensure that EMI is delivered without adverse effects on teaching, learning and wider society.”

Watch the video below to hear what Dr Kristina Hultgren has to say about her research:

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