British Sociological Content on EAP Courses – Pros and Cons

This is how Julia Gardos from the University of Bristol outlines the contents of her talk.

As a result of the internationalisation of HE in the UK, a debate has emerged concerning the idea that learners should “acculturate” and take on a British identity. Instead, it may be argued using an EMI perspective that learners should experience English as a medium for their studies and view it purely as a vehicle of instruction, thus setting up a sharp divide between the language and the surrounding culture. At the last BALEAP PIM in Southampton, Jennifer Jenkins has advocated the internationalisation of EAP materials and curricula. Following from critical theory, some claim that imposing British values and culture on Chinese students through the teaching of EAP can be viewed as forcing a dominant ideology onto a disempowered group. Cultural acclimatisation causes high stress levels among Chinese students (Tian and Lowe, 2013). In addition to compounding this, it has been questioned whether imposing a specific worldview – predominantly left wing sociological – on students with a different cultural and learning background may be alien to their conditioning.

I am setting out to explore these questions in the context of Bristol University’s pre-sessional, where the Content Strand, a significant course component, is focused on British sociological topics. Through a small scale mixed methods research project I will explore how the students feel about studying British society, based on the hypothesis that they value the understanding to be gained from familiarisation with the norms of the host culture. Rather than being forced on them against their will, I believe this material may give them a significant advantage by providing an increasing multicultural awareness. In addition I will suggest that language and culture cannot be divorced from each other completely and that EAP is embedded to some extent in Anglophone culture.


Tian, M. & Lowe, J. (2013). The role of feedback in cross-cultural learning: a case study of Chinese taught postgraduate students in a UK university. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 38 (5), p. 580-598.


The slides of the presentation are available here [PDF].


julia-gardosJulia Gardos has a background in English Linguistics, Literature and Culture. She is currently working as an EAP tutor at Bristol University. Her research interests include the role of non-native speaker teachers in the EAP classroom and the intercultural experience of students and tutors in HE. She frequently contributes to the Bristol University tutor blog: CELFS Tutors Network.


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