English has become the chosen language of professional and academic communication in global higher education. One of the authors of the book, “English Language Standards in Higher Education: From entry to exit,” Prof. Sophie Arkoudis said that acquisition of the English language in non-native speakers is “central to academic success.” It is also essential for success in the workplace, she added. She also specified that English language acquisition should be nurtured with systematic and continuous development, and she insisted this is in part a responsibility of the universities and institutions of learning.
The chosen language
The desire and need to learn English unites those who aspire for higher education in various parts of the globe. Majority of international students in universities located in English-speaking countries do not speak English although there are some who speak it as their second language. There are many learning resources available today for English learners of various levels as required by their respective disciplines. For non-native speakers these references have been truly indispensable especially to those who aspire for advanced degrees.
The distinction that the English holds in the academe has been beneficial to many scholars who speak the language. Having one language to communicate and work with has bridged international collaborations. However, since peer-reviewed publications are mostly in English, academics and researchers who do not use the language have been unable to share significant findings and observations beyond their borders. Thus they receive no international recognition no matter how excellent their work is.
The role of institutions of higher education
This is the perfect ideal – that all graduates of higher education programs have the capability of functioning as professionals in terms of English language competence. An expert insisted that without support from the institution itself, this goal could not easily be achieved. The objective and methods to develop English language need to be laid down and “built into all curricula.”
Proficiency in the English language is a key concern amongst teachers and students and institutions of higher learning are currently addressing this multi-faceted issue at present time. Today, even non-English speaking countries are offering English as the language of higher education. Observers have pointed out that it is rather unfortunate that many universities are not making English language proficiency a top priority.
Change is (not yet) afoot
There is a general consensus that English is the primary language of higher education at the international level for many decades now. For many it is a moot point to discuss because English is indeed the dominant language in the academe. English will remain the medium of instruction for global higher education in the next few years. At least, this is what most indicators suggest.
Universities that have been “left behind” are still working to increase the use of English in their post-graduate programs as the push for higher rankings (national and international). Many persons with their PhDs are still not quite excellent in their use of the English language and so the learning process towards proficiency continues. Weakness in English is sometimes not realized even in people who use it as a second language. There are standards that need to be reached, and students, teachers and universities have their own concerns when it comes to higher education English proficiency. For many, the journey is just beginning.