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Empowering Minds: The Role of Disciplinary Literacies in English-medium Internationalised Universities

Dr Emma Dafouz
Professor of Applied Linguistics, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain


As higher education increasingly embraces internationalisation, the demand for English as the medium of education (EME) has soared (Dafouz and Smit, 2020, 2022). This change in the language of instruction presents challenges for all the stakeholders involved, from content lecturers to students for whom English is typically not only a foreign language/L2 but also the language in which the disciplinary knowledge is constructed and transmitted. The construct of ‘disciplinary literacies’(DLs) emerges in these contexts as a critical component of effective teaching and learning in subject-specific communication (Airey, 2011). Nevertheless, the oversight in addressing such DLs in many EME settings may hinder students’ ability to comprehend and produce discipline-specific texts, while raising concerns about their satisfactory learning of disciplinary content (Wingate, 2022).

Against this setting, this keynote will firstly foreground the need to provide an explicit and integrative support to students and lecturers in English medium-education by focusing on the notion of DLs and by combining it with two other dimensions, namely, internationalisation and multilingualism. Secondly, it will present findings from the research conducted within the SHIFT research project, an international multi-dimensional project, which has examined from a longitudinal perspective how business students view the role of DLs, internationalisation and multilingualism in their learning of disciplinary knowledge and how they gradually develop such dimensions in their process of academic acculturation in EME. The session will close with implications for ESP and EFL professionals, advocating for the need to regard these agents as pivotal in supporting students (and lecturers) in the effective implementation of EME in universities across the world (Dafouz, 2021; Dafouz and Gray, 2022).


Airey, J. (2011). The disciplinary literacy discussion matrix: A heuristic tool for initiating collaboration in higher education. Across the disciplines 8(3). https://doi.org/10.37514/ATD-J.2011.8.3.18.
Dafouz, E. (2021). Crossing disciplinary boundaries: English-medium education (EME) meets English for specific purposes (ESP). Ibérica, 41,13–38. doi:10.17398/2340-2784.41.13
Dafouz, E. & Gray, J. (2022). Rethinking the roles of ELT in English-medium education in multilingual university settings. ELT Journal 76, 2, 163–171.
Dafouz, E., & Smit, U. (2020). ROAD-MAPPING English Medium Education in the Internationalised University. Palgrave MacMillan.
Dafouz, E. & Smit, U. (2022). Towards multilingualism in English-medium higher education: A student perspective. Journal of English-Medium Instruction, 1(1), 29-47. https://doi.org/10.1075/jemi.21018.daf
Wingate, U. (2022). Student support and teacher education in English for Academic Purposes and English Medium Instruction: Two sides of the same coin? Language Teaching 1–12 doi:10.1017/S0261444822000465
International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023