Introducing English as the
medium of instruction at
K.U.Leuven
A comparison of lecturers’ and
students’ language skills,
perceptions and attitudes.
Dr. Lies Sercu
Catholic University of Leuven
Outline
 Context
 Research
design
 Findings
 Implications
Context
Internationalisation
 Bologna Declaration
 FLemish University Decree

in principle: all courses in Dutch
 exceptions allowed: bachelor (max.
10%; master: no maximum set)

Research design


Sample: 5 faculties, students and
lecturers, response rate: 43%
Data collection
1. Meetings with Permanent Education
Committees
2. Electronic questionnaires
3. Video recordings
4. Questionnaires about English-spoken
classes
Electronic questionnaires
 Profile
of respondent
 Attitudes towards use of English
 Language proficiency
 Self-assessment
 Writing
 C-tests
test
questions
C-tests

Example
In Trinity, we place great emphasis on the
connection between teaching and research.
In th__ context, a__ of u_ are expl_____ of
know_____. Our st___ achieve th__ through
rese____ and schol______, and w_ are
fort_____ to ha__ many acad____ staff w__
are interna________ renowned scho____. ….
Findings
Attitudes towards English medium
instruction
 Language proficiency

Findings: attitudes
in favour/against
 differences between faculties
 agreement between lecturers and
students
 disagreement between lecturers and
students
 no within-group agreement

Subdivision lecturers and students; for
or against English as a language of
instruction (in %)
80
73
55
60
45
f or
40
27
agains t
20
0
lec turers
s tudents
Differences between faculties
120
100
9
11
23
29
80
50
60
47
48
54
against
60
f or
91
89
40
77
71
20
40
50
53
52
LA W
A GR
PSY
46
0
lec t .
LA W
A GR
PSY
ECON
st ud.
ECON
P H.ED.
Agreement between
students and lecturers
The use of English will help to
improve students’ and lecturers’
English language skills
 The use of English will attract more
foreign students
 English as a language of instruction
can only be used in graduate
education
 Course materials and lectures should
be in the same language

No agreement between
students and lecturers



The use of English will affect the Dutch
language negatively. Lecturers: yes,
students: no
English is an important academic
language. Lecturers: yes, students: no
A near-native Level of English language
proficiency is required of lecturers:
Lecturers: good, students: near-native
No within-group agreement




Using English will have a negative
influence on students’ results.
English can only be used in courses in
which not all students understand Dutch.
Students should always be granted the
possibility to take the exam in Dutch.
Students’ English language proficiency
will benefit more from attending courses
in English than from taking English
language courses.
Findings:Language
proficiency

C-tests
• Active and passive language proficiency

Writing task
• Written language proficiency (active)

Video-recordings
• Oral language proficiency (active)
Lecturers’ results – c-tests
and writing

C-tests: average score of 79%
• Very good, but not native speaker level

Writing test: average results
• accuracy= between ‘good’ and ‘very good’
• Efficiency of communication= ‘very good’

Little difference between faculties
Students’ results – c-tests
and writing

C-tests: average score of 69%
• Fairly good, though 10% lower than
lecturers

Writing test – average results:
• Accuracy= ‘good’
• Efficiency of communication = ‘good’

Lower than lecturers’ skills +
differences between faculties
Extract from written text students
I don’t think it is a very good idea to make
English the instructionlanguage of the courses.
There are still to many students who don t have
the proper knolledge of the language. {…} On
the other hand English is a very important
language and sooner or later you’ll need to use
it. There are many text that are in that language
and you’ll need to study them if you want to
learn or understand something. You’ll need
other languages besides Dutch such as English
and French if you want to make a carrier.
Results video-recordings
(only lecturers)




oral language proficiency below reading
or writing skills
Problems often not recognized
Four main problem areas: pronunciation,
word order, prepositions, interference
from native language
Manage to get message across to Dutchspeaking students
Students’ assessment of
Lecturers’ English speaking skills

Students underestimate lecturers’
language skills but also their general
professional capability when the lecturers
use a strong Dutch accent or when they
make many mistakes

Most students agree that lecturers should
take an English language proficiency test
before they can be allowed to teach in
English
Implications




Take account of differences between
faculties
Only use English extensively at graduate
and postgraduate level
Only use English when chances on labour
market are enhanced
Offer language courses, on a voluntary
basis and tailored to the needs of
lecturers
Implications



Offer additional language courses for
students, on a voluntary basis +
integrated with regular courses taught in
English
No combinations of English course
materials and Dutch-spoken courses
Careful monitoring required



Are students’ results affected?
Does students’ English improve?
Does study load increase?
contact details
[email protected]
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