English-medium instruction in higher education throughout Europe

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2024). English-medium instruction in higher education throughout Europe. In: Bolton, Kingsley; Botha, Werner and Lin, Benedict eds. The Routledge Handbook of English-Medium Instruction in Higher Education. London: Routledge, pp. 81–95.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003011644-8


Since the turn of the millennium, European higher education has witnessed a remarkable rise in English-medium instruction (EMI), accompanied by a paralleled rise in research activities aimed at understanding this phenomenon. What we are witnessing is arguably a language shift in the making, not seen in Europe since Latin was adopted as a lingua franca. The manifestations of EMI vary throughout Europe. In some contexts, EMI has sparked heated public debates, led to lawsuits, and encountered other forms of overt resistance, whilst in others, it is being pursued with relentless zeal. In essence, these debates centre on how universities should strike a balance between their participation in a ‘globalized knowledge economy’ and serving the interests of the nation-state. Within higher education institutions themselves, some staff and students are profoundly affected by having to teach, learn, and operate in a language that is not their first, whilst others soldier on seemingly unperturbed by the changing environment. This chapter reviews the current state of the art in the field and discusses some of the key issues, tensions, and debates relating to EMI throughout Europe. To begin, however, it may be helpful to set the sociolinguistic background against which EMI unfolds.

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