Language Policies at the LERU member institutions

Language Policies

At all times have language skills been key to academic education and scholarly publications at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and this is becoming more rather than less important. Just take the increasingly multicultural classroom at HEIs and the observation that undergraduate or graduate students can no longer be expected to have the required language skills in academic discourse. This applies to the relevant national language(s), notably concerning the level of academic writing, to the foreign language(s) relevant to their academic discipline, and to (academic) English. How then do, or should, HEIs and especially the member institutions of LERU react in this situation? What are their answers to the role of the national language(s) vis-à-vis foreign languages, especially English, in the classroom and in scientific discourse, in general, and to the need for quality assurance and enhancement concerning the teaching of foreign languages and the use of English as the medium of instruction for entire degree programmes? How, for example, is the non-academic staff (e.g. librarians, administrators) prepared for communicating with international students or scholars? And which support do international researchers and their families receive concerning the acquisition of the relevant national language?

In this Briefing Paper, these and other questions are explored and presented against the background of national and European discussions, projects, surveys, reports and advice papers on language policies and politics. The paper is based on a survey among the LERU member institutions conducted in 2017, with a special focus on official institutional language policies (ILPs). Ultimately, it is the formulation of such ILPs which this paper will advocate, sharing with its readers practical experiences and recommendations concerning important decisions and steps on the way towards the formulation of such documents, central aims and elements they should have, and crucial tools and mechanisms in their institutional implementation and monitoring.

Year of publication:
Nov 2019
Type of paper:
Briefing paper
  • Bernd Kortmann (University of Freiburg)