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ACA Newsletter guest article by Prof. Futao Huang, Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University, Japan

Overview: Growth of English-taught programmes and courses in East Asia

There has seen a rapid increase in the numbers of English-taught programmes and courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels in China, Japan and South Korea in the past decade. Rationales and motivations driving the emergence and development of English-taught programmes and courses vary considerably among the three countries, but it is generally acknowledged that economic globalisation and internationalisation of higher education are common factors facilitating the internationalisation of university curriculum, including the development of English-taught programmes and courses.

Besides, in the case of East Asia, the decisive role of national governments should not be overlooked. For example, a document issued by the Ministry of Education of P. R. China in 2001 indicates that in the three years that followed, the percentage of courses taught in English among all the courses in the leading universities should go up from 5% to 10%, especially in such areas as Biology, Information Science, New Materials, International Trade, Law, and at the undergraduate level. At a policy level, though later than China and Korea, in 2008, Japan’s Government also launched the Global 30 programme as one of initiatives aiming to triple the number of foreign students by 2020. In order to achieve the goal, 13 universities, including 7 national and 6 private, were selected to play a central role in implementing the programme. These Global 30 universities were required to provide at least two English-taught degree programmes and accept more international students. Similar to China, since early 2000s, the South Korean Government has allocated additional budget for colleges and universities to increase the provision of English-medium teaching through various national programmes or projects, e.g., BK 21 project.

With respect to the recent situation of English-taught programmes and courses, though no national data about the total number of English-taught programmes or courses in Chinese universities has been released, it is estimated that approximately 5% of all undergraduate courses are entirely provided in English language in China’s leading universities. Among nearly 40 leading universities, a number of English-taught degree programmes are also delivered, mostly at graduate level in “hard sciences”. In Japan, English-taught programmes and courses were provided in as early as the end of the WWII by some private institutions which were founded by religious bodies. However, no significant effort had been made to encourage Japanese universities, especially those in the public sector, to provide English-taught programmes or courses until the introduction of the Global 30 programme in 2008. The impact of Global 30 was immediately seen. A national survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan indicates that by 2009 the total number of English-taught courses had reached 194 at the undergraduate level, although this figure reflects a growth in the public sector and a decline in the number of English-taught courses in the private sector over the period of 2007-2009. At the graduate level, the number of English-taught courses had reached 169 with similar changes between the public and private sectors. In South Korea, according to a survey conducted by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in 2006, English-taught courses had accounted for 2.2% of all courses (about 410 000 courses) offered in the country. Another survey conducted by KEDI (Korean Education Development Institute) in 2007 revealed that 94 institutions (49%) out of 190 responding universities had introduced English-taught courses at the undergraduate level, while 58 institutions (30%) had offered English-taught courses at the graduate level, albeit differences in extent. For example, the proportion of English-taught courses at leading universities, such as KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology), Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University experienced a remarkable growth.

A special mention should be made that both in Japan and South Korea, in recent years, English-taught programmes and courses are not only provided to attract international students, but are also considered as an effective means to produce local graduates with global competiveness. One may reasonably assume continuous growth in English-taught programmes and courses in all the three countries. However, key issues concerning the English proficiency of both academics and students, support for such programmes at an institutional level, additional work load of faculty members who are  using a foreign language in teaching, and educational outcomes of these programmes and courses remain to be addressed.

Ministry of Education, P.R. China – List of English-taught programmes in Chinese Higher Education Institutions Ministry of Education of P. R. China (in Chinese) Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (in Japanese)