What are the drivers of EMI, and does it matter? A close-up look at an Austrian university

Nao, Marion; Wingrove, Peter; Yuksel, Dogan; Zuaro, Beatrice and Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2023). What are the drivers of EMI, and does it matter? A close-up look at an Austrian university. In: ELINET First Annual Conference, 13-14 Apr 2023, University of Glasgow.


The poster presents emerging findings from research that investigates the drivers of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) at an Austrian university as part of a wider UKRI-funded project extending its reach to other countries in Europe [1]. While the trend towards the increasing use of English for academic programmes is often taken as problematic, little may yet be known empirically about the drivers that actually lead to their curricular implementation. Within the scope of our project, many of these can be traced backwards in history to educational reform and upwards to governance within and beyond the level of the institution itself. Given a perhaps overriding concern in the field of EMI with symptoms over causes, the poster intends to prompt discussion with attendees on the question: What are the drivers of EMI, and does it matter?

Drawing on the particular context of Austrian higher education, we have sought answers by adopting a process tracing methodology. This aims to uncover the causes of an outcome, namely EMI, via traces of evidence in a variety of sources, such as documents and internet webpages, which are explored in qualitative depth in interviews with participants involved at various levels of decision-making, both universitarian and ministerial (N=18). It is not, however, coincidental that Austria has been selected as a stimulus for discussion. EMI is viewed by many of the participants as an inevitable and positive trend, which begs the question, if Austrians aren’t by and large concerned by it, does it matter? It is hoped that this question will open up a space for attendees to contribute to the discussion by drawing on their own contexts of research and/or professional action.

[1] English as a Medium of Instruction in European Higher Education, PI: Prof. Anna Kristina Hultgren (The Open University), UKRI Ref: MR/T021500/1.

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