English-Medium Instruction in Higher Education in the United Arab Emirates: The Perspectives of Students
Solloway, Anthony Jonathan
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This exploratory, interpretive study investigates the attitudes towards and experiences of English-medium instruction (EMI) within higher education (HE) on the part of female students completing an intensive foundation programme at a major federal tertiary institution in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two data collection procedures were employed in this study, a 21-item questionnaire, and in-depth, face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. Content analysis was performed on transcriptions of the latter, a procedure which gave rise to recurring, emergent themes. Such themes included the belief expressed by some participants that having the second language (L2) of English as the medium of instruction (MI) can act as a barrier to learning, and that it would be preferable to study in their first language (L1) of Arabic. Additionally, it was found that some students believed their secondary school education had failed to afford them adequate preparation for EMI HE, a disturbing finding given that the government of the UAE appears to have stated a desire to achieve universal HE for females, whilst also signalling its intention to eliminate university-based foundation programmes. In addition to such academic-related findings, it emerged that there exists significant ambivalence towards the place and standing of English in contemporary Emirati society, with a recurring theme being that whilst knowledge of and proficiency in English is required for the globalised economy, and thus for the future of the country, the pervasive spread of the English language in the UAE poses a threat not only to Arabic, but also to the religious identity and cultural integrity of the indigenous Emirati population. The findings of this study lead to the recommendation that the UAE implement a paradigmatic shift in its language policy within federally-sponsored HE by reverting to Arabic as the primary MI, with English as a foreign language (EFL) or English as a second language (ESL) as a subject replacing EMI.
EdD in TESOL