National, Religious, and Linguistic Identity Construction within an Internationalized University: Insights from Students in Egypt
Date: 29 November 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in Education
The last two decades have set the global trend of internationalized education on a new course. Besides the usual flow of international students from their home countries to Western universities, an opposite flow emerged. In the Middle East, for instance, the number of international campuses nearly doubled between 2000 and 2009, and ...
The last two decades have set the global trend of internationalized education on a new course. Besides the usual flow of international students from their home countries to Western universities, an opposite flow emerged. In the Middle East, for instance, the number of international campuses nearly doubled between 2000 and 2009, and Egypt has been no exception. Starting 2003, Egypt has witnessed a remarkable surge of private international universities that use English as a medium of instruction, adopt foreign curricula and have partnerships with universities in Europe, North America, and recently Asia. This trend has raised identity loss concerns among many intellectuals and educational researchers whose worries mainly revolved around national, religious, and linguistic identities. This longitudinal qualitative study, thus, aimed to understand how Egyptian freshman students at an international University in Cairo construct and negotiate their national, religious and linguistic identities. A semi-structured interview was conducted with 12 students at three different points of their first year at the university, and a focus group was organized at the beginning of their second year. Results revealed a more complex picture than the widespread simplistic rhetoric about international universities’ influence on students’ identity construction. The participants’ social and academic backgrounds and unique life experiences were an important factor in their identity construction and negotiation; they seemed to determine the ranking of those identities on their hierarchy of identities, which in turn shaped how they constructed and negotiated them. Moreover, participants realized and used their agency to negotiate their identities and resolve identity crises when these happened. They also resorted to other identity agents, particularly family and students’ clubs. This study contributes to the Egyptian debate on educational reform and adds to the literature on English as a medium of instruction, identity formation, and internationalized education by shedding light on the intricate ways in which students navigate through international education, and by suggesting pedagogical and policy implications applicable not only to liberal-education institutions in the region, but perhaps also to other universities in Europe and North America that attract international students, particularly with the recent waves of refugees from the Middle East.
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