The ROAD-MAPPING Framework

  • Emma DafouzEmail author
  • Ute Smit


This chapter offers an updated account of ROAD-MAPPING, our conceptual framework developed to examine English-Medium Education in Multilingual University Settings (EMEMUS) (originally introduced in Dafouz and Smit (Towards a dynamic conceptual framework for English-medium education in multilingual university settings. Applied Linguistics, 37(3), 397–415, 2016). Informed by recent developments in various research areas, such as the internationalisation of higher education, multilingual education, sociolinguistics, ecolinguistics, language policy research and discourse studies, the framework consists of six intersecting, yet independent dimensions, which are accessible through the discourses of EMEMUS: Roles of English, Academic Disciplines (language) Management, Agents, Practices and Processes, Internationalisation and Glocalisation. Foregrounding their multi-layered nature, each of the dimensions is described and elaborated in detail, supported by a range of illustrations from various EMEMUS cases. To capture the essence of our dimensions, working definitions are provided in the final section.


Internationalisation of higher education ROAD-MAPPING framework Conceptualisation Sociolinguistics Ecolinguistics Language policy Discourse 

3.1 Introduction

The present chapter offers an updated account of the conceptual framework, known under the acronym of ROAD-MAPPING (Dafouz & Smit, 2016), developed to examine English-Medium Education in Multilingual University Settings (EMEMUS).1 While the essence of our theoretical model remains for the most part unchanged, this book chapter allows us to elaborate further on the dynamic nature of EMEMUS and its conceptual underpinnings. Concurrently, we will provide an overview of other recent theoretical models of EMEMUS from an applied linguistic perspective.

The six EME cases discussed in Chapter  2 already illustrated the multi-layered nature of EMEMUS at particular higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as its geographical, typological and linguistic diversity. However, precisely because EMEMUS is so diverse, and situated, there is a strong need to provide a conceptual frame of reference at the meta-level. This will allow researchers to understand how these and other EME realities fit into the bigger picture and how they are affected by forces operating at global and local levels simultaneously.

3.2 Conceptualising English-Medium Education

Knight’s (2008, 2012, 2018) seminal work shows how the use and understanding of the concept ‘internationalisation’ has changed within the higher education (HE) landscape (Law, 2018). A fundamental shift has occurred from the 1980s’ view of internationalisation as a strategy to promote studies abroad, educational exchange and scholarships for foreign students, to the present-day notion of ‘comprehensive internationalisation’ defined as ‘a commitment, confirmed through action, to integrate international, global, and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research, and service missions of higher education’ (Hudzik & McCarthy, 2012, p. 2). Such a view regards internationalisation as a process that inevitably calls for action and change. In this vein, international affairs in HEIs across the world have moved from being peripheral to central, to the point that internationalisation is often equated with high-quality education and innovation (De Wit, Hunter, Howard, & Egron-Polak 2015; Knight, 2018).

Against this backdrop, an interesting development in the theorisation of internationalisation has been the emergence of different terms describing distinct ways to internationalise HEIs. Three main terms are widely used in the literature: ‘internationalisation abroad’2 (Knight, 2012, p. 47), ‘internationalisation at home’ (Nilsson, 1999) and ‘internationalisation of the curriculum’ (Leask, 2013, 2015). Traditionally, internationalisation abroad, with student and (later) staff mobility as its defining feature, was regarded as the most typical example. This type of mobility has given way to other forms of education which, in addition to people, include programmes, providers, projects and policies. The second term, internationalisation at home (IaH), rather than encouraging domestic students to leave the local institution, focuses on attracting foreign students to the university and on activities that develop global understanding, intercultural skills (De Wit et al., 2015, pp. 49–50), and also the use of English as medium of instruction. In this vein, Erasmus has just launched an online version of its mobility actions, known as Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange ‘enabling youth in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to engage in meaningful intercultural experiences online.’3 Finally, internationalisation of the curriculum (IoC) (Leask, 2009) refers to the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments (Beelen & Jones, 2015). Admittedly, while there is a certain overlap with the concept of IaH, as both focus on all students and not just the mobile minority, the main difference lies in that IoC ‘situates the disciplines, and therefore the disciplinary teams who construct the curriculum at the center of the internationalisation process’ (Leask, 2015, p. 27; emphasis added). In this conceptual model, knowledge in and across disciplines determine the organisational focus of HEIs as well as the curriculum decisions which are never ‘value free’ (Leask, 2015, p. 29). Thus, to boost the IoC process, there is a need to move away from existing and dominating paradigms and visualise, in turn, different possibilities and ways of organising and delivering the curriculum.

While the three terms described above examine internationalisation in twenty-first century HEIs from different angles, none of them specifically address language issues, nor make explicit reference to the role of language(s) in research, administration, teaching and/or learning. Two swift allusions are made to language in Leask (2015, p. 91) when referring to learning as ‘mediated by language’ and language and culture as ‘critical filters and lenses through which everything is experienced and learned’. Yet the book, like most of the literature on the internationalisation of higher education (IoHE), does not elaborate any further on the centrality of language and so language concerns are usually conspicuous by their absence in HE policies (Saarinen & Nikula, 2013). To counterbalance this tendency, we will now turn to the few applied linguistic models of IoHE that have somewhat approached the ‘language issue’.

From a language economic perspective, Grin (2010) elaborates on the range of institutional linguistic activities that differ depending on the agents involved (e.g. teachers or students), purposes pursued (e.g. teaching, researching, administering) and respective addressees (e.g. internal or external to the institution). The resulting complexity and possibly contentious nature of diverse linguistic activities find further sociolinguistic elaboration in Cenoz and Gorter’s (2010) model of multilingualism at the university. This model additionally takes into consideration the diversity of educational settings and domains, macro- and micro-level sociolinguistic variables such as the (foreign) language proficiency levels in the wider population as well as the family relations between the languages in question. Zooming in on the educationally central aspect of the medium of instruction (EMEMUS), the IntlUni Erasmus Academic Network Project suggests a ‘spectrum of modalities’ for the language(s) used for educational purposes (Lauridsen & Lillemose, 2015). Based on a survey involving 38 HEIs in 27 mainly European countries, a minority of institutions were found to apply a monolingual medium-of-instruction (MoI) policy, either in the respective national language or in English only, mainly in the UK and Ireland. In contrast, most universities reported multilingual MoI, combining the national language(s) with English in various ways.

Taken together, these applied linguistic frameworks provide three relevant insights regarding the ‘language issue’ in present-day HE (Smit, 2018, p. 390): (a) twenty-first century HEIs are characterised by multilingualism, even if it comes in diverse, dynamic and potentially conflicting realisations; (b) in most multilingual scenarios, English is a central, but not uncontested element; (c) HE multilingualism is situated, variable and multi-layered in relation to a range of sociopolitical, linguistic and psychological factors, such as the institution and its power structure, the stakeholders, their expectations and communicative purposes, and the wider sociocultural setting.

What these models do not provide, however, is a systematic and comprehensive framework which pays full recognition to the complexity of multilingualism in HE and can function as a conceptual backbone to researching and (further) developing EMEMUS. To address this gap, we have developed a ‘theoretically grounded and holistic framework’ known as ROAD-MAPPING (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 411). This model adopts a sociolinguistic perspective and views languages as the means to socialisation and the development of social practices.

3.3 The ROAD-MAPPING Framework and Its Theoretical Anchoring

Conceptually, ROAD-MAPPING draws from recent developments in sociolinguistics, ecolinguistics and language policy research, which will be described briefly here (for a more detailed discussion see Dafouz & Smit, 2016, pp. 399–402). Reflecting processes in today’s society, postmodern sociolinguistics focuses on the dynamics and fluidity of communicational practices and the diverse social identities they co-construct (e.g. Blommaert, 2010; Pennycook, 2007; Rampton, 2017). As witnessed in many recent publications, this ideological move has gone hand in hand with examining the complex process of meaning making in equally complex contexts with both conceptual and empirical approaches. These interdependent and multi-layered settings are identified as ‘superdiverse’ (Arnaut, Blommaert, Rampton, & Spotti, 2016) or ‘emergent’ (Flores & Lewis, 2016). While the theoretical debate on what has recently been termed the ‘trans-turn’ in applied linguistics is still ongoing (e.g. Hawkins & Mori, 2018), it has certainly enriched our sociolinguistic thinking by complementing long-standing bounded and largely static notions, such as speech community or code switching, with unbounded and evolving ones, such as transient multilingual community (Mortensen, 2017) or translanguaging (Canagarajah, 2011; García & Wei, 2014).

Such an enhanced interest ‘in the multitude of phenomena and factors that shape meaning making in human interaction’ (Hawkins & Mori, 2018, p. 5) finds further theoretical support in ecolinguistics, which has developed the ecology metaphor into ‘a dynamic concept’ (Fill, 2018, p. 4) underlying ‘explorations of the relationship of languages to each other and the society in which these languages exist’ (Creese & Martin, 2003, p. 161). Placing ecological interests at the centre, one of its main research aims is to provide information and arguments for maintaining language diversity by underlining its value as a resource in cultural, educational, social and also economic terms (Fill & Penz, 2018; Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997). Such a sociopolitical and critical research stance is also reflected in recent approaches to language policy research (e.g. Hult, 2017; Johnson, 2013). In extension of the original interest in top-down language regulations, the language policies of a particular ecology also encompass what the social players know and think of said regulations and what they actually do in specific circumstances. The resulting tripartite model of language policy (LP), first captured as such in Spolsky (2004), opens up a multi-layered research space that foregrounds the LP intricacy and possible tensions contingent on the societal mechanisms behind ‘organising, managing and manipulating language behaviours’ (Shohamy, 2006, p. 45). In this light, LP adopts both a policy-as-text and policy-as-discourse angle (Hult, 2017, p. 113), encompassing, in addition to more traditional textual analyses, a ‘situated meaning’ approach whereby policy is examined in situ and the relationship between policy and practice is foregrounded.

This broad understanding of LP not only reverberates with the sociolinguistic and ecolinguistic ideas developed above, but also with a central tenet of current discourse studies which regards discourse as social practice (Gee, 1990, 2018). In this view, discourse goes beyond the classical definition of language in use and ‘language in context’ (McCarthy, 2002, p. 57) to foreground its use in relation to social, political and cultural formations, reflecting social order. As a form of social action, discourse is seen as shaping both social structures and individuals’ interaction with society (Jaworski & Coupland, 2006). In other words, discourse is the means through which members of society build the events they participate in and how they constitute social order and organisations. In this sense, discourse is not seen simply as a way ‘to make the situationally relevant factors visible and explicit’ (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 402) but is rather conceptualised as a ‘locus of co-construction’ (Hüttner, Dalton-Puffer, & Smit, 2013, p. 4) whereby social practices (e.g. student exams, language policy documents, teacher interviews) are built through discourses.

In the case of EMEMUS, a discourse analytic approach presupposes an understanding of HEIs as highly contextualised ‘sites of engagement’ (Scollon, 1998) where agents take part in a wide number of discursive activities (or practices and processes) of a distinct nature, revolving mostly around teaching and learning, research or admin services. Regarding teaching, classrooms have traditionally constituted interesting sites for discourse analysis as these are the main places where teachers and learners enter into ‘regular, often long-term interaction, performing clearly defined and deeply entrenched institutional roles’ (Dalton-Puffer, 2017, p. 167). Analyses of classroom discourse have unveiled the multifaceted interplay of linguistic and contextual factors and their situated nature (e.g. Smit, 2010). Yet the current focus of discourse analysis in EMEMUS settings not only includes classroom discourse concerns but extends to interests in education more broadly. Accordingly, recent research has examined, for instance, strategies for knowledge construction (both in the L1 and L2), issues regarding language pedagogy in multilingual university settings, or the language policies and practices stemming from these new teaching and learning situations. All of this confirms that discourse analysis is indeed a ‘multi-disciplinary field and hugely diverse in the range of its interests’ (Trappes-Lomax, 2004, p. 133).

In fact, multilingual university settings are often characterised by a high degree of diversity in terms of staff and student mobility. As these agents bring along different linguistic resources, the EME in focus typically reveals a dynamic and fluid use of the language resources available rather than the abstract, bounded and norm-oriented ‘English’ that the label might insinuate. At the same time, the ‘trans-turn’ discussion argues that also ‘named languages carry real and material consequences in the world’ (Hawkins & Mori, 2018, p. 3). This seems particularly relevant in educational institutions and their pedagogical mission. It can thus be expected that the sociolinguistic tension between situated communicative practices and an orientation to linguistic norms plays out in EME as well. An ecolinguistic point of view can help to increase conceptual clarity about how the linguistic resources used or expected to be used are interrelated in dynamic and potentially controversial ways. The educational practices in multilingual university ecologies are an integral element of the respective academic habitat, co-shaped by contextual factors such as the academic discipline, constellations of agents or the type and degree of internationalisation.

A similarly comprehensive, critical and potentially activist understanding is proffered in current LP research that aims to understand and possibly influence language use and ideologies in their intricacy (Hult, 2017). When applied to EMEMUS and the multiple roles and functions of English and other languages, such an understanding necessitates a multi-dimensional approach which deals with the language regulations relevant to teaching and learning, stakeholder beliefs and expectations about language behaviour, as well as their actual language use across diverse educational settings: ‘such a complexity and multidimensionality calls for a research orientation that can acknowledge multisited webs of influence’ (Nikula, 2017, p. 311). This research orientation can be made viable by discursive approaches to LP (Hult, 2017) that acknowledge the composite nature of social phenomena often consisting of seemingly disparate social practices taking place at different sites (Halonen, Ihalainen, & Saarinen, 2015). To provide a holistic investigation of, for instance, a specific EME course, research needs to go beyond piecemeal renderings of micro- and macro-layer aspects. Even if one’s research interest was a rather narrow one, zooming in on, for example, student presentations in a particular English-medium class in the course, it would remain paramount to keep the whole course in mind when interpreting the specific findings. Metaphorically speaking, the analytical lens can zoom in or out, but the object of enquiry stays the same and must be acknowledged in its entirety (Hult, 2010, p. 14).

In alignment with the theoretical anchoring elaborated above, our ROAD-MAPPING framework consists of six dimensions: roles of English (in relation to other languages) (RO), academic disciplines (AD), (language) management (M), agents (A), practices and processes (PP), and internationalisation and glocalisation (ING). As visualised in Fig. 3.1, the dimensions are understood as equally relevant, independent but interconnected and, as will be argued below, complex in themselves. Discourse(s), which ‘is seen as the intersecting access point through which all six dimensions can be examined’ (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 403), is placed at the centre, thus also reflecting the centrally discursive nature of the social practices that construct and are constructed dynamically in EMEMUS. For the sake of clarity, we will elaborate on each of the dimensions and its multifaceted nature in the order given by the acronym ROAD-MAPPING.
Fig. 3.1

The ROAD-MAPPING framework for EMEMUS (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 404)

3.3.1 Roles of English

Our interest in ‘multilingual university settings’ already implies that the Roles of English cannot be investigated by themselves. Even if EME entails that English is given a privileged status, reflecting its increasingly global role in academia and tertiary education, it is in contact and conflict with other languages and their institutional and societal histories in schools or—for example—government offices, but also private homes or online communities. Each of the six EME cases of Chapter  2 exemplifies the interplays of such roles. At the University of the Basque Country, for instance, the relatively recent role given to English as the third medium of instruction reflects its international relevance in academia, thus winning out over German and French as potential contenders. At the same time, English competes with the two regionally used mediums of instruction at all levels of education, Spanish and Basque, resulting in situations where the functions of each language may be dependent on and/or in conflict with each other. In other words, the roles one language (struggles to) fulfil and its communicative functions are intricately linked to those of other languages as well as the specific demands of the respective context, which, as ecolinguistics reminds us, are as flexible and multifaceted as the languages themselves.

When turning to English as our focal language in EMEMUS, the multilingual intricacies are visible—at least to some extent—in established and well-described roles, such as EFL or ESL (English as a Foreign or Second Language), ESP (English for Specific Purposes), EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and ELF (English as a Lingua Franca). EFL or ESL, which is clearly the role given to English in most language proficiency tests used as study-entry or exit requirements, implies that the agents are speakers of other languages and thus in the process of acquiring English (e.g. Ortega, 2009). ESP and EAP, in turn, describe particular purposes for which English is used, namely those specific to areas of expertise, often linked to certain professions, with academia having gained its own acronym owing to the central role that language and, more particularly writing, plays in it (e.g. Anthony, 2018; Charles & Pecorari, 2016). Although the labels themselves do not pay credit to other languages, the concomitant areas of research and education definitely do: in higher educational contexts, both ESP and EAP target students and staff wishing to improve their English language proficiency for their academic or professional needs, thereby recognising the existence of other languages, even if only from a deficit viewpoint. ELF, finally, is different in that it explicitly focuses on multilinguals engaging in communication and using English as one of the codes they share (e.g. Jenkins, 2015; Seidlhofer, 2011). While usually not officially acknowledged as such (Jenkins, 2014), this is certainly one of the primary functions English fulfils in multilingual university settings.

Furthermore, these established labels (EFL, ESP, EAP, ELF) come with limitations when describing Roles of English. As expounded on in Dafouz and Smit (2017, pp. 294–295), they are either multi-layered in themselves, such as ESP and its many subcategories including English for Business, Medicine or Tourism (e.g. Anthony, 2018, pp. 12–16) and/or overlapping with each other. The latter is the case with ESP, EAP and ELF in certain contexts such as when international Ph.D. students jointly prepare a presentation for a company as a potential funder of their project. Keeping our theoretical assumptions in mind, we therefore contend that language roles need to be described via their interrelatedness with the respective context, which can be done with the help of four types of factors. These types are sketched in Table 3.1, which gives more information on each of the functions in the second column (‘Specification’). Additionally, examples are provided for possible roles English can fulfil in higher education (third column, ‘Exemplification’). For a full account see Dafouz and Smit (2017).
Table 3.1

Factors relevant for Roles of English (based on Dafouz & Smit, 2017, p. 299, Table 1)

Factor type




Functions of English and other languages outside institution

First foreign language in compulsory education; language of environment



Language as subject (such as English for commerce)



Discipline specific (such as engineering or philosophy)



Internal or external communication (such as memos, emails or press-releases)


Language as learning aim and assessment criterion

Explicitly included in curriculum or implicitly expected by stakeholders


Teaching formats and materials

Lecturing vs. group work; printed or online resources


Codes used

English as only shared medium or in combination with more languages


Purposes pursued

Institutional, instructional, for research


Language skills

Writing, listening


Linguistic repertoire

C2 in Japanese & B2 in English;

C2 in English & B1 in Germana

aB1, B2, C1, C2 refer to the proficiency scales described by the Common European Framework of Reference (updated version 2018;, accessed 26 April 2019)

Moving from the macro- to micro-levels, these types relate to societal, institutional, pedagogical and communicational factors, thus placing the complexity of roles of English centre-stage. By way of illustration and picking up on our EME case from the University of the Basque Country,

an analysis along such lines will put into relief the dynamic interplay of, for instance, (a) the actual or expected language proficiency levels students bring along (e.g. B2 for writing English, C1 for speaking Basque, C2 for Spanish); (b) the (implicit) language-related learning objectives being pursued (e.g. writing an abstract in English, giving an academic presentation in Basque); (c) the institutional needs of contributing to international research or engaging in expert discussions; and (d) the societal requirement to further enhance trilingualism in the national language, the regional language and in English as academic lingua franca. (Smit, 2018, p. 395)

While such a detailed analysis might come across as messy, it nevertheless offers a faithful description of the Roles of English (in relation to other languages) and acknowledges their situated complexity. Additionally, such an analysis accounts for the interrelated relevance of ‘language-as-product’ and ‘language-as-process’ by integrating the named language(s)—English, Spanish and Basque in this case—as well as the multilingual resources used dynamically in institutional discourse.

3.3.2 Academic Disciplines

Understanding and complying with the diverse academic and disciplinary cultures that rule HEIs and the resultant discursive products, whether spoken or written, are arguably one of the most demanding aspects of university acculturation. When entering the HE community for the first time, learners are expected to become familiar with the different discourses generally used and valued in such a setting and, shortly after, produce textual artefacts following the specialised language, norms and genres that define academia and the distinct disciplinary fields (Dafouz & Smit, 2016; Leung & Street, 2012b; Street, 1999).

A number of taxonomies and models have been used to describe and classify the diverse ways in which ‘we understand the world, [and] the categories and concepts we use’ (Hyland, 2006, p. 39). Biglan’s (1973) classical division between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences and ‘applied’ vs ‘pure’ disciplines, or the seminal work by Bernstein (1999), for instance, have been instrumental in identifying differences in knowledge construction across content areas. Bernstein’s model, with its vertical axis of cumulative knowledge construction against a horizontal axis of coexisting principles and theories, places the experimental sciences on the former, while social sciences and the humanities tend to be found on the latter. More recently, the work by Trowler (2014, p. 1720) has argued for a more sophisticated conceptualisation, where disciplines are ‘variable and contextually contingent’ (p. 1723) and classified according to the notion of family resemblances which is less static than the previous categorisations. Furthermore, Trowler claims that knowledge construction is specific to particular cultures, settings, periods and the natural languages used to construct it. In this way, a change in the medium of instruction, as with EMEMUS, will undoubtedly have an impact on stakeholders’ academic socialisation and on the disciplinary artefacts produced. In this sense, there is a hot debate on whether academic literacies in English-speaking HEIs should be adapted when used in non-Anglophone national contexts, or simply ‘imported’ for the sake of developing global graduate skills in the student population (see also Internationalisation and Glocalisation). Some research has shown that EMEMUS students may not be receiving enough support to develop appropriate academic skills for a number of reasons (Airey, 2009; Bradford & Brown, 2018a; Breeze & Dafouz, 2017). Firstly, lecturers often believe that language issues are beyond their teaching expertise and/or pedagogical training (Airey, 2009; Fortanet-Gómez, 2013; Kuteeva & Airey, 2014). Secondly, content teachers assume that such students are ‘already proficient in the L2, as they are often requested to take language exams upon university entrance’ (Breeze & Dafouz, 2017, p. 82) and, consequently, do not need disciplinary language guidance. This is illustrated by the fact that some HEIs have inexplicably removed EAP and ESP courses from the curriculum on the assumption that formal language instruction is no longer needed and incidental language learning will suffice (Arnó-Macià & Mancho-Barés, 2015).

An attempt to bridge this gap may be found in the Pluriliteracies Approach to Teaching for Learning (PTL), which focuses on the development of ‘subject specific literacies and transferable knowledge and skills’ (Meyer, Imhof, Coyle, & Banerjee, 2018, p. 238). The PTL posits that academic and domain specific skills are closely interdependent and interrelated and should therefore be used in an integrated manner to achieve ‘deep learning’ (Novak, 2002). Learners develop deeper learning when they consciously choose to incorporate new knowledge into their existing knowledge and are thus able to transfer both knowledge and skills. This implies that, instead of separate language learning programmes, language and content teaching need to be addressed in a holistic and integrated manner.

All in all, while it is generally agreed that the role of language in education is of huge relevance (Beacco, Fleming, Goullier, Thürmann, & Vollmer, 2016), our model contends that in EMEMUS such awareness is even of greater importance. The Academic Disciplines dimension draws attention to the lecturer and student need to acculturate in a second or foreign language and, at the same time, develop disciplinary discourse conventions for which there is often little or no explicit provision (see Practices and Processes).

3.3.3 (Language) Management

As expounded on above (see Roles of English), multilingual settings come with a strong element of choice in terms of using what language resources when and where, which is reflected in the increased need for managing language-related matters in the form of language policy statements and documents. These ‘direct efforts to manipulate the language situation’ (Spolsky, 2004, p. 8) come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, not least because the regulations embody ‘policy-as-text’. In other words, they are the outcomes of preceding managerial activities, possibly including struggle and compromise (Hult, 2017, p. 113). In order to illustrate the diversity encountered in HEIs, we will discuss the three aspects of ‘what policy type’, ‘what communicational functions’ and ‘what languages’.

Inspired by Johnson’s (2013, p. 10) criteria of policy types, the first aspect of the ‘how’ of regulatory texts relates to characterising them in terms of genesis (top-down or bottom-up), means and ends (overt vs. covert), documentation (explicit vs. implicit) and legal status (de iure vs. de facto). While at first sight LP regulations might be expected to be rather uniform as top-down, overt, explicit and de iure, the institutional status of managerial decisions is more complex, leading to texts that also reflect bottom-up input, phrase certain aims rather covertly, document some ideas implicitly and/or represent recommendations rather than decrees. Thus, examining these four criteria makes it possible to characterise a specific regulatory text more accurately. At the University of Maastricht, for instance, an internal report functioned as the de facto 2006 language policy document (Wilkinson, 2014, see also Chapter  2). Like the regulation that preceded it, it was created top-down and classified the university overtly as bilingual in Dutch and English. While explicit on the instructional language goals, most of which were already being met at the time of issue, other goals were devolved to other managerial levels, for example the faculties, thereby keeping their ends open and potentially covert.

The second aspect picks up on the range of communicational activities integral to higher education (see Roles of English). It draws attention to the fact that managing language use includes administrative decisions, such as language choice for internal communication in, for example, meetings, or for the signage used on campus, or the presentation of research, for instance, on the university webpage (e.g. Kadenge, 2015; Tomášková, 2015). Concerning education, LP regulations deal with medium(s) of instruction and assessment but also with (foreign) language education and language support.

The third aspect, finally, turns to the language(s) in focus. Apart from still rare references to language-as-process as, for instance, the recognition that English is used as a lingua franca (Soler, Björkman, & Kuteeva, 2018, p. 38), policy texts usually work with ‘named’ languages, specifying or proscribing their intended roles and functions. In view of the strong internationalisation forces in HE, it is not surprising to find that LP regulations are often of the ‘English-plus’ type worldwide (Jenkins, 2014; Smit, 2018). Next to the national and regional languages traditionally used in HE, English functions as a staple ingredient. While the presence of English is often taken as an uncontested fact in IoHE, the relationship between English and national or regional languages is topicalised and critically assessed (Smit, 2018, pp. 394–395). Minority languages, however, are usually conspicuously absent from such regulations (for an exception see Bull, 2012). Soler et al. (2018, pp. 38–39) provide an illustrative example of English-plus management, drawing on the official language policy texts of nine Swedish universities. They establish that, while minority languages are not topicalised at all, English is identified as the global language and as highly valuable to HE; the textually most prominent theme, however, is the protection of Swedish as the national language. This concern reverberates with many publications warning of the hegemony of English, causing domain loss for other languages and their speakers (e.g. Airey, Lauridsen, Räsänen, Salö, & Schwach, 2015; Ammon, 2001; Phillipson, 2013). Yet research has shown that LP regulations can also be geared towards countering such developments and, for example, can support students in developing academic registers and literacies in their respective first languages (Bernini, 2015).

On the other hand, LP regulatory texts should not only be evaluated according to what policy type they represent and what they deal with in terms of language(s) and communicative activities, but also as regards what they do not include: that is, what is conspicuous by its absence (Fortanet-Gómez, 2013, pp. 78–79). In the most extreme cases, it might be the complete lack of an LP document, but even when such documents exist, certain aspects may remain underspecified, creating sociolinguistic relevance in itself. A case in point is the repeatedly reported practice of keeping English invisible in the sense of referring to ‘other’ languages for certain functions which are actually fulfilled exclusively by English (see e.g. Saarinen & Nikula, 2013). There is thus the risk of ‘camouflag[ing the unique status of English] behind a call for multilingualism’ (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 406).

3.3.4 Agents

The Agents dimension refers to the numerous social players that are engaged in EMEMUS in diverse ways at different sociopolitical, institutional and hierarchical levels. It is precisely this combination of levels, roles and settings that deems the description of this dimension far from straightforward. The multifaceted and multi-level nature of the actors involved in EMEMUS has been approached from different perspectives. The structural approach (e.g. Enders, 2004), for example, views well-established structures (e.g. University of Vienna, OECD, EAIE) as agents which can react effectively to societal changes. While this does not deny the existence and importance of individual or collective actors, it envisages these as bound to structures, which are the starting points of change processes. The actor approach (see Saarinen & Ursin, 2012), in contrast, focuses on individual actors on the one hand, and institutional on the other, but sees both types as operating within given structures (e.g. universities, departments, international relations offices). Both approaches thus see actors as largely dependent on the structures within which they act, even if they are ultimately responsible for triggering change (or not).

The agency approach (Marginson & Rhoades, 2002) includes two complementary components: the different levels by which an organisation can be classified, namely global, national or local, and the distinct and varied activities such organisations may engage in. This combination of levels and activities, known as ‘glonacal agency’ (Marginson & Rhoades, 2002, p. 291), advocates the concurrency of top-down and bottom-up forces in shaping the contexts of HE. Similar to our ROAD-MAPPING model, this approach is dynamic and holistic in that it incorporates the global and local perspectives in the conceptualisation of twenty-first century HEIs and notes that HE policy is not only influenced but also produced by actors and structures which operate, globally, nationally and locally. In other words, the agency approach can be described as ‘an interactive process between various actors and domains within transient structures’ (Saarinen & Ursin, 2012, p. 149; emphasis added).

The intricacies of such ‘interactive processes’ are arguably best elaborated by way of exemplification, which we will do in relation to our ‘EME case in Japan’, Waseda University. As described earlier (see Chapter  2), Waseda was selected in 2009 as one of the 13 Global 30 universities project funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or MEXT (Bradford & Brown, 2018b). This top-down national policy overall seeks to enable Japanese universities to be more competitive in a globalised scenario and, as part of this strategy, promotes the implementation of ETPs in concrete HEIs with specific institutional agents (e.g. governance bodies, faculty, students and administration). In the case of the local administrators engaged in the support of such ETPs, Poole (2018, p. 103) describes how these actors, who are often overlooked when describing EME policies (Dafouz, 2018b; Llurda, Cots, & Armengol, 2014), ‘are actually much more central to institutional identity than even the university educational mission statements themselves’ (Poole, 2018, p. 92). If these agents do not understand the value of EMI for the university, are not trained to adjust to the required educational changes, and as a result question or even resist EMI, they can indeed limit the possible transformations of HE in Japan. This example notes the tensions between macro- and micro-agents and reminds us that forces operating at different levels, whether globally (IoHE), nationally (i.e. Japan’s MEXT strategy) or institutionally (e.g. Waseda International Program) interact in multifaceted ways. In other words, given that ‘EMI is shaped by its agents’ (Bradford & Brown, 2018b, p. 7) it is crucial to keep in mind that all agents need to be considered.

3.3.5 Practices and Processes

In line with social practice theorising (Reckwitz, 2002, pp. 249–250), we understand a social practice to be a culturally embedded routinised type of behaviour which consists of an irreducible ensemble of physical and mental activities, background knowledge and know-how, states of emotion and motivation. As the complementary part to social structures, social processes capture the intrinsic nature of fluctuation in social groups from the micro- to the macro-level, leading to longer-term changes within social institutions (e.g. Scott, 2014). Taken together, social practices and processes thus afford an in-depth analysis of meaning-creating activities, for instance in English-medium classrooms, and of long-term changes, such as regarding the scope and scale of internationalisation in a particular HEI. In other words, we see this dimension as taking a ‘[p]rocess rather than product view to analyse praxis and development that might otherwise go undetected’ (Dafouz & Smit, 2016, p. 407).

With the caveat that the practices and processes in EMEMUS are much more diverse than can be covered here, our explorations will first deal with the micro-level of student interactional practices in the classroom, then turn to teacher collaboration and professional development and conclude with the macro-level of institutionalised internationalisation.

The widely shared social constructivist understanding of learning sees classroom discourse as central to the joint development of knowledge (Mercer, 2000; Vygotsky, 2012), comprising both cognitive procedures and subject-specific academic literacies that students need to develop and make their own. In EME settings, this time-consuming and strenuous process goes hand in hand with developing localised practices that draw on students’ diverse (academic) cultural backgrounds as well as their multilingual repertoires. While it is to be expected that the classroom practices rely heavily on English in its established roles as an academic language and lingua franca (Mauranen, Hynninen, & Ranta, 2016, see also Roles of English above), learners tend to—and as recent research underlines, should—‘translanguage’, that is, ‘us[e] the linguistic resources at their disposal [when] engag[ing] with each other and with texts to create meaning and deepen learning’ (Palfreyman & Van der Walt, 2017, p. 12). As translanguaging presupposes a classroom culture that embraces linguistic diversity as well as active student participation, translingual practices can clearly not be seen independently, but need to be embedded in the wider educational practices enacted in a specific HEI.

At the same time, this illustrates that the heterogeneous nature of EME learner groups often demands different pedagogical approaches from first-language classrooms. They also require professional educators who can support the diverse needs of a multilingual group as well as each learner in their learning process. At the University of Maastricht, for instance, such a learner-centred design was considered a condition of success for EME programmes (Wilkinson, 2013). Of direct relevance in this regard is the recent call for increased teacher collaboration, which originates from the two-pronged learning aims of content and language integral to EME. In recognition of the language demands faced by the multilingual learners, EME programmes may include some English language support, often in the form of EAP classes taught by English language experts (Bradford & Brown, 2018a; Tsou & Kao, 2017; see also Academic Disciplines). The respective areas of language and subject expertise are thus kept separate, failing to contribute jointly to the academic literacies that the students actually require (Brown, 2017; Lyster, 2017). To overcome this dilemma, collaboration between content and language experts is needed at the levels of ‘program development, course planning and team teaching’ (Brown, 2017, p. 160), preferably in the form of interdisciplinary partnerships that induct learners into the discourses and epistemologies of the respective area of specialisation (Jacobs, 2007; Lasagabaster, 2018).

In order to support this, HEIs are well advised to invest in EME-targeted teacher professional development (see Chapter  5). While such offers should clearly respond to teaching needs in a way that is sensitive to the context—including English language proficiency, intercultural awareness and higher educational pedagogy—they must also take into consideration the lecturers themselves, their reasons and willingness (not) to engage in EME teaching and the impact this is likely to have on their professional identities. It is unlikely that lecturers would develop EME-adequate practices otherwise (Dafouz, 2018a; Norton, 2013).

In addition to the value of the PP dimension for investigating student and teacher activities, it provides an interesting window on the internationalisation process of HEIs more generally. A process-oriented analysis foregrounds the practices that the relevant agents engage in at certain points in time. It can thus also throw light on what the ‘glonacal’ version of internationalisation of a specific institution looks like and where it is on the scale towards comprehensive internationalisation.

3.3.6 Internationalisation and Glocalisation

Almost two decades into the twenty-first century, it is undeniable that the process of internationalisation of HE ‘has grown in scope, scale and importance’ (Knight, 2018, p. 13). As already sketched earlier, a considerable shift has taken place from regarding IoHE as a way to develop human capacity to present-day IoHE as a global business. Likewise, critical voices draw attention to a dangerous move from the original ‘values of cooperation, partnership, exchange, mutual benefits and capacity building, to one that is increasingly characterised by competition, commercialisation, self- interest and status building’ (Knight, 2018, p. 18).

This change in scope and mission has been accompanied by a diversification of terms and labels, as well as ‘a metamorphosis of their meanings’ (Hudzik, 2011, p. 9). Beyond such terminological differences, this reveals that IoHE has different meanings and follows diverse implementation strategies across settings. Consequently, ‘there is no one model that fits all’ (De Wit et al., 2015, p. 27). And, while strongly connected to the globalisation of our society, IoHE at the same time is deeply embedded in glocal political, economic and social structures, systems and cultures (Jones, Coelen, Beelen, & Wit, 2016).

In the case of EMEMUS, such glocalisation forces (Robertson, 1995) reveal the ‘tensions but also the synergies’ (Scott, 2011, p. 61) of HEIs’ motivations for changing the medium of instruction. It could be the case that they are aiming to improve their status in world rankings (Macaro, Hultgren, Kirkpatrick, Lasagabaster, 2019) and, at the same time, meet the demands of a local context, thereby causing conflicting changes to the curriculum. Similarly, Hughes (2008, p. 15) argues that a ‘curriculum may be extremely high quality in terms of the teaching culture and communicative norms of the country in which it originates [… but could be] highly inaccessible to a diverse student body with very different expectations and language abilities’. This example raises questions of how to strike a balance between issues of curricular harmonisation for the sake of student and staff mobility while maintaining curricular diversity and local institutional academic practices. In this sense, as already mentioned in the academic disciplines dimension, there is a risk that EMEMUS could eventually lead to curricular homogenisation and the imposition of Westernised approaches and paradigms on local academic cultures (Leask, 2015; Smit & Dafouz, 2012). Likewise, the requirement for English at university may affect the further development of students’ (and also academics’) first-language skills and ultimately cause the loss of disciplinary language development in languages other than English.

All in all, at the time of writing, most HEIs across the world seem to be adopting and implementing a comprehensive understanding of IoHE (Hudzik, 2011). This, in our view, involves a threefold approach: infusing international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research and service missions of HE; shaping institutional ethos and values to embrace this international perspective; and, thirdly, involving the entire HE institution. Such a widespread approach requires the support of all the agents involved in regarding IoHE as ‘an institutional imperative, not just a desirable possibility’ (Hudzik, 2011, p. 9).

3.4 Conclusions

As argued in this chapter, our ROAD-MAPPING framework aims to function as a means to capture and analyse the dynamic, multi-layered and diverse nature of EMEMUS. This means that the framework is, firstly, holistically oriented, recognising that English-medium educational realities are complex irrespective of whether they concern one or various HEI sites. Secondly, they are seen as social phenomena largely dependent on discourse(s), with this placed at the centre of the framework. Such a conceptualisation reverberates with the discursive turn in the social sciences and dovetails with the postmodern sociolinguistic approach to investigating social practices across scales, allowing the interplay of various levels and sites.

As elaborated in the individual descriptions above, each dimension identifies one topic, but integrates various notions, draws on one or more theoretical approaches and comes with a range of research findings. To facilitate the application of the ROAD-MAPPING framework, we include working definitions of each of the dimensions in Table 3.2.
Table 3.2

Working definitions of the six dimensions of ROAD-MAPPING


Roles of English refers to the communicative functions that language fulfils in HEIs, with the focus placed on English as the implicitly or explicitly identified main medium of education. In view of the diverse linguistic repertoires relevant to the settings in question, English intersects in dynamic, complementary but also conflictual ways with other languages. Additionally, English, and ‘language’ more generally, are seen as both product and process, being used both as individual codes and as a flexible form of multilingual communication


Academic Disciplines encompasses two-related notions: academic literacies and academic (disciplinary) culture. Academic literacies refer to the diverse range of academic products (whether spoken or written) typically developed in an educational setting and conforming to socially conventionalised situated practices. By disciplinary culture we mean more particularly the subject specific conventions, norms and values that define different disciplinary areas. Both notions together are essential as means of exploring and constructing knowledge and for acculturating into the academic communities of practice


(Language) Management is concerned with ‘direct efforts to [influence and] manipulate the language situation’ (Spolsky, 2004, p. 8) in the form of language policy statements and documents. These texts differ in terms of policy type, but also with regard to which language(s) and which communicational activities are dealt with to what extent and in what ways


The Agents dimension encompasses the different social players (whether conceptualised as individuals or as collectives, concretely or abstractly) that are engaged in EMEMUS at diverse sociopolitical, institutional and hierarchical levels. Agents may adopt different roles and identities and thus implement (or not) changes in their respective HEIs, depending on their hierarchical status within such organisations, their professional concerns and/or their English language proficiency


Practices and Processes is based on the understanding of social practices as ‘cultural conception[s] of particular ways of thinking about and doing’ (Leung & Street, 2012a, p. 9). It is thus concerned with the administrative, research and educational activities that construct and are constructed by EMEMUS realities. Such a process-focused perspective allows for dynamic analyses at all levels, for example classroom discourse, teacher professional development or stages of internationalisation


Internationalisation and Glocalisation refer to the ‘the tensions but also the synergies’ (Scott, 2011, p. 61) that govern twenty-first century HEIs, and portray such organisations as transnational sites where stakeholders from different social settings, linguistic and cultural backgrounds and educational models are gaining presence. Equally important, nonetheless, are national and local drivers, such as the national and regional languages used in particular HE settings or the cultural and the pedagogical models for present day HEIs to remain relevant in their respective societies

While the working definitions characterise the core meanings of the dimensions, we expect prospective studies to use the framework in contextualised ways, thereby also offering more discussion on each of the dimensions and how they relate to each other. This, we hope, will develop the description of the dimensions and, ultimately, also the framework. What will remain a central feature of ROAD-MAPPING is its inherently dynamic and flexible nature. This is not only of central relevance to its conceptualisation, as argued for in this chapter, but it is also a strength when applying the framework to EMEMUS-focused research. With the dual aim of illustrating how ROAD-MAPPING can be used and of providing relevant findings and insights, the next two chapters discuss research using the framework. Chapter  4 elaborates on investigations of EME realities and complexities, and Chapter  5 focuses on how such research is informative for EME management and policies.


  1. 1.

    To capture the phenomenon in question comprehensively and transparently, our terminological choice is EMEMUS and EME for short (for further explanations see Chapter  1).

  2. 2.

    Also referred to as cross-border or transnational education (Knight, 2012).

  3. 3.

    See, accessed 24 February 2019.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English StudiesComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of English StudiesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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