Academic awarded grant to investigate English communication in HE classrooms

A University of Bedfordshire academic has been awarded a grant of £250,000 to investigate effective English communication in Higher Education.

Dr Fumiyo Nakatsuhara, a Reader in Language Assessment at CRELLA – the University’s Centre for Research in English Language Learning & Assessment  – was awarded this funding by the British Council, as part of its Future of English Grant, for the project titled, ‘Digitally-mediated EMI communication in Higher Education classrooms: Transforming evidence to practical resources’.

Dr Nakatsuhara was also granted a PhD studentship of nearly £60,000 by the British Council to recruit a student to work alongside her on this project under her supervision. The announcement of this quarter of a million pound win proudly comes after CRELLA was judged to be world-leading in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results, placing it third in the country for research within the field of English Language and Literature.

English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) is the use of the English language to teach academic subjects in contexts where English is not used as the primary, first or official language. In some countries, such as Japan, EMI provision aims to attract international students to mitigate the effects of declining number of domestic students, while in other countries like Malaysia it targets domestic students to improve their English proficiency to accelerate the overall national economic development.

Research areas to be explored by this project include exploring the emerging nature of EMI communication in digitally-mediated classes, and evaluating what EMI support is available and necessary for teachers and students.

This three-year project is set to conclude in March 2025 and Dr Nakatsuhara will lead an international team involving the University of Reading (UK and Malaysia), Waseda University in Japan and University College London, alongside colleagues from the University of Bedfordshire – Dr Chihiro Inoue, Senior Lecturer in Language Assessment at CRELLA, and Professor Angel Chater, Professor in Health Psychology and Behaviour Change.

Speaking about this new project, Dr Nakatsuhara commented: “I am very excited to start working with the amazing teams in the UK, Malaysia and Japan. Our range of academic expertise is diverse, including language assessment, second language acquisition, behavioural psychology, English for academic purposes and English as a medium of instruction. This will bring in complementary strengths, perspectives and skills to this project!”

Dr Nakatsuhara’s work also seeks to discover what the future of English looks like, and the study has set a research agenda with global scope that will provide insights into trends that will define the role of English over the next decade. 

Professor Andrew Church, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation at the University of Bedfordshire, commented: “Following CRELLA’s recent REF success, it is very pleasing to see yet another related piece of important research being conducted with this study. This project will hopefully give a vital insight into what the future of English communication will look like and it is great to see the University once again at the forefront of this work.”

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