Help make Higher Education Institutions multilingual spaces
Help make Higher Education Institutions multilingual spaces
Why this petition matters
Sign the ECSPM Declaration addressed to the Education Department of the Council of Europe, the Higher Education Unit of the European Commission, the European University Association and to Higher Education Institutions across Europe.
Read the full text of the Declaration in English below, or in one of 21 other European languages here, and help us stress the need for change in Higher Education (HE). Multilingualism in teaching, learning, research, publishing, governance and communication must be legitimated through explicit institutional language policies.
While acknowledging that this document has no legally binding effect, it declares public commitment to contributing actively and constructively to the development of policies for multilingualism in HE. The Declaration is open for signature by those concerned with multilingual literacies and epistemologies, linguistic diversity, and respect for linguistic rights, and specifically by: (a) research/academic units, organisations, federations, associations (with or without legal entity), (b) individual persons, in their capacity as members of academic units and other social bodies actively involved with languages in education.
Internationalisation policies, which are of interest to an increasing number of higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as to national and supranational policy agencies, aim – or so they claim – at enhancing higher education quality in an increasingly interconnected world. In the case of the EU, internationalisation policy initiatives are meant to achieve greater equity among higher educational systems in the context of the ‘European Education Area’, promoting transnational cooperation, partnerships among HEIs and collaboration among EU Member States to succeed in creating “inclusive national education and training systems”. However, internationalisation has increasingly led to the use of English as a ‘lingua academica’, to English Medium Instruction (EMI) and to the ‘Englishisation’ of HE. Despite the mounting evidence regarding the drawbacks of the exclusive use of English in teaching, research, academic publishing, and networking, it is increasingly supported by national authorities and policy makers presuming that English is a means to economic development, modernisation, and global communication. However, the use of English at the expense of the official/national language(s), as well as regional or minority languages, may lead to domain-specific abandonment and the repudiation of linguistic rights. Moreover, the use of English at the expense of other languages, with or without significant cultural capital, has consequences for linguistic and cultural diversity, leading to impoverishment of social and epistemological knowledge.
The signatories of the “Declaration for Multilingualism in Higher Education” that was drafted by the European Civil Society Platform for Multilingualism (ECSPM) support the basic principles of the “Helsinki Initiative on Multilingualism in Scholarly Communication” and agree to contribute to policy-making decisions and practices which are in line with the Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)1 which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, on “The importance of plurilingual and intercultural education for democratic culture”. With regard to HE, in particular, the signatories commit to:
- safeguard and support the use of several languages, in addition to the official language(s) of HEIs in governance, research and publications, teaching-learning, and communication,
- secure and fortify plurilingualism particularly in teaching and learning, transnational research collaboration and
- rely on the use of language technology tools for services for teaching and learning that facilitate the use of different languages.
The signatories of the ECSPM Declaration for Multilingualism in Higher Education commit to contribute to raising their university authorities’ awareness, as well as the cognisance of those responsible for language policies, linguistic management and curricula development, directors of research units, scholars, researchers, students, teaching and administrative staff, as civil society that:
- Being proficient in one’s official/national language, home/heritage or any other language learnt, does not secure epistemological literacy in that language, which entails very different discourse practices than vernacular literacies. However, both are important for the construction of meaning in educational contexts, by both students and teachers.
- When teaching or learning in a language other than one’s own, they cannot/should not be expected to produce a nativised variety of this language.
- It is important for university students and staff to be encouraged to make use of all the languages and language varieties they have in their repertoires for meaningful communication in different contexts of their academic life.
The ECSPM Declaration for Multilingualism in Higher Education signatories make the following recommendations to be adopted by policy makers, transnational, national or state organisations, agencies, universities, research institutions, research funders and researchers:
- Provide opportunities for different languages (not just English) to be the medium of instruction in programmes, courses, modules, alongside the official language of the institution.
- There are many “unseen” languages in all educational institutions and there should be room for those languages to become visible and to come to be recognised.
- Provide preconditions for language selection to ensure quality of education.
- Make sure that instructors offering courses in languages other than the official language(s) of the institution have epistemological proficiency in those languages.
- International students should be helped to integrate into the academic community and therefore offered opportunities for support and intensive language classes.
- Avoid exclusively monolingual/monocultural educational experiences (e.g. provide bibliography, language technology tools, videos in different languages).
- Research groups across universities should be encouraged to decide on the language(s) they will be using at different times (during interaction, dissemination of research outcomes, publication of results).
- Encourage translation and parallel use of languages and invest in language technology tools.