English language use at the internationalised universities of Northern Europe: Is there a correlation between Englishisation and world rank?

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2014). English language use at the internationalised universities of Northern Europe: Is there a correlation between Englishisation and world rank? Multilingua, 2014(3–4) pp. 391–414.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2014-0018

Abstract

European universities have, since the late 1990s, undergone dramatic changes centred on internationalisation, harmonisation and competition. This paper is concerned with two specific consequences of these changes and their interrelationship: rankings and Englishisation, the latter defined as an increase in the use of English at universities of nation states where English is not the official language. Despite a recent surge in research into Englishisation, it is not yet clear to what extent current organisational changes inevitably entail an orientation towards both rankings and Englishisation or whether a high rank can be attained without the use of English being increased and vice versa. Using as a case study Denmark’s eight universities, this paper examines the relationship between the combined rank on seven well-known ranking lists of each of Denmark’s eight universities and the extent to which English is used in them, drawing on recently compiled government statistics. The findings suggest that while there is some evidence in support of a correlation, in that lower-ranked universities are, on the whole, less likely to use English than higher-ranked ones, there are some notable exceptions. It is suggested that the findings may shed light on whether Englishisation at the universities of Northern Europe is best explained in terms of unintended consequences or rational choices.

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