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Study on English-Language-Taught Degree Programmes


August 2001 - September 2002


Gesellschaft für Empirische Studien (GES)


The study was prepared by ACA Director Bernd Wächter and Friedhelm Maiworm (Kassel, Germany) between August 2001 and September 2002. It concerns full degree programmes only, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, in 19 European countries where English is not the "natural" medium of instruction. In order to explore this little researched issue, ACA went to great lengths. Two large questionnaire surveys were carried out, targeting over 1,500 universities and colleges. The information gathered in this data-collection exercise provides the statistical backbone of the new ACA study. With a response rate of over 50 percent, the results rest on a very safe footing. In addition to the surveys, site visits to 11 institutions were carried out, to learn more about the "inner life" of the programmes in question, and the challenges they face. Information was also collected from quality assurance and internationalisation agencies in countries with a medium or high number of programmes taught in English.

The study pursued three major aims. In a quantitatively-oriented approach, it first "mapped" the provision of English-Language-Taught Degree Programmes (abbreviated ELTDPs) in Europe, in order to find out about the general level of provision, the picture in the different countries, the type, size and age of the institutions offering ELTDPs, the composition of the student body enrolled in ELTDPs and the main subject areas in which they are being offered, amongst other items. Second, in a more qualitative orientation, it identified key factors of importance for any institution intending to start or widen the provision of ELTDPs, such as motivation, institutional approaches and the role of single actors inside an institution, marketing, language proficiency, organisation, funding, accreditation and quality assurance, and intended or unexpected spin-off effects. Third, it provided a set of recommendations for good practice in the conception, planning, introduction and operation of ELTDPs.

ELTDPs are still rare in non-English-speaking Europe. The Alps are a European "ELTDP watershed". South of them, there is hardly any provision, which is concentrated in the North of the continent, with Finland and the Netherlands leading the table. Central and Eastern European countries occupy a middle position. The majority of degree schemes are very young, and there appears to be a link between their emergence and the creation of national funding schemes. While business and management studies and engineering heavily dominate the offer, this type of tuition is present in the whole range of disciplines, including unlikely specialisations such as theology or "mathematical psychology". The most common motives for introduction of such programmes reported by the universities are to attract foreign and domestic students and to offer programmes leading to the new degrees introduced in the context of the Bologna reform.

While accreditation and quality assurance are widespread practice in ELTDPs, there is no ELTDP specific approach to it. In the overwhelming amount of cases the "standard" accreditation and quality assurance mechanisms are used. The funding mechanisms to support the introduction or operation of ELTDPs vary from country to country: while there are no special funds available for this purpose in more than a half of the countries surveyed, other countries provide support programmes. ELTDPs produce some remarkable spin-off effects, too. Most of all, they seem to enhance the importance European universities and colleges attach to the image they have with potential students, and hence to marketing and recruitment. The introduction of programmes taught in English also seems to strengthen the overall importance of internationalisation at institutions.

The study concludes with a set of 11 recommendations. Key amongst them is the appeal to governments and universities and colleges to substantially increase the offer of ELTDPs, in order to provide a (continental) European alternative to study in the US, Australia or Canada. Institutions are also called upon to market their programmes more targetedly, to develop institutional ELTDP policies, and to aim to attract top-quality students through improved admissions and selection mechanisms.

A follow-up to this study was concluded in 2008.

Programmes in European Higher Education Taught in Foreign Languages