English as a medium of instruction, British Council report



This report presents the findings of a study which attempted to provide an initial picture of the rapidly
growing global phenomenon of English medium instruction (EMI). Our working definition of EMI was:
The use of the English language to teach academic subjects in countries or jurisdictions where the first
language (L1) of the majority of the population is not English.
The study was conducted by EMI Oxford (The Centre for Research and Development in English Medium
Instruction), a centre based in the University of Oxford’s Department of Education. The research
group included Professor Ernesto Macaro, Dr Catherine Walter, Julie Dearden and Ting Zhao.
The study was enabled thanks to the support of the British Council and the data were collected between
October 2013 and March 2014.

The broad aim was to map the size, shape and future trends of EMI worldwide. In order to meet
the challenge of researching a global phenomenon with limited resources it was decided that the
methodology of this initial and unique study would be to ask British Council staff in 60 countries to act
as ‘informed respondents’ for the countries in which they were resident. Open-ended questionnaires were
sent to these respondents and they were asked to provide information on the current state of EMI under
a number of headings. Further information on the methodology used is provided in the main report.
We obtained information on 55 countries.

The main conclusions are:
■ The general trend is towards a rapid expansion of EMI provision.
■ There is official governmental backing for EMI but with some interesting exceptions.
■ Although public opinion is not wholeheartedly in support of EMI, especially in the secondary
phase, the attitudes can be described as ‘equivocal’ or ‘controversial’ rather than being ‘against’ its introduction and/or continued use.
■ Where there are concerns these relate to the potentially socially divisive nature of EMI because
instruction through English may limit access from lower socio-economic groups and/or a fear
that the first language or national identity will be undermined.