As Vietnam witnesses a significant increase in the demand for improved English language skills as a means of engaging with and learning from the wider world, more and more universities are looking at introducing EMI courses in support of this goal. Through participation in these EMI courses it is ultimately hoped that Vietnamese students will graduate with more employable skills and a greater ability to read the world around them.
For academics, there is also increased pressure to publish in English in international journals, to participate in international conferences and to take part in collaborative research projects with colleagues from overseas.
While the long-term benefits to academics and graduates are clear, there are nevertheless valid concerns about the quality of teaching and access to appropriate teaching materials, not to mention linguistic challenges for both academics and students. There is, for example, a real danger that if academics are not sufficiently trained and supported in the transition from delivering content in Vietnamese to delivering content in English, disciplinary content will be diluted and the overall quality of education compromised.
In order to support Vietnam through this transition phase, the British Council are currently working with a number of university leaders and academics from institutions such as the National Economics University and Ha Noi University of Industry to consider how positive and sustainable change can be achieved in the teaching and learning of subjects such as finance, economics, law and engineering through English. In order to build capacity amongst the academic staff of these institutions, the British Council in Vietnam are providing a series of 30–90 hour training courses which focus on both theoretical issues and practical problems related to the delivery of subject-specific content at tertiary level through the medium of English. To date we have delivered such courses to over 390 lecturers from 85 universities and colleges across the country.
We are also engaging at policy level by inviting key leaders in higher education to attend open dialogues at international conferences such as Going Global, as well as commissioning research to provide insights on the impact of EMI on staff and students. Dr Nicola Galloway from the University of Edinburgh is currently conducting research in Vietnam as part of a wider study concerning the growing global phenomenon of English Medium of Instruction (EMI) in higher education: policy, perceptions, impact, and the role of 'English'.
Her research will address questions such as:
- What does the spread of EMI mean for university teaching staff?
- Do staff and students feel enfranchised by the use of EMI?
- Are there any particular training needs?
- What does the spread of EMI mean for educational policy?