Wars of Words: Management Policy and Employee Practice at the Internatinal University

Hanne Tange


Using Bourdieu’s economic approach to language as the focal point, the paper addresses the dilemmas arising from the co-existence of a global, English and a national, Danish discourse within the field of higher education in Denmark. The first part shows how the emergence of a global knowledge market has prompted Danish university managers to develop new policies on language, promoting the idea of “parallel language usage” in an attempt to justify to staff and students the ongoing normalisation of English within the areas of research and teaching. The second part looks at the question of English domination from the position of the university lecturers. Drawing on qualitative research interviews collected at four Danish faculties, the analysis demonstrates how “English-only” strategies have affected teachers’ practice and how they have responded by developing idiosyncratic rules deriving from local needs rather than global principles. The paper concludes that there seems to be resistance to the normalisation of English within the Danish university system but that such behaviours tend to be hidden rather than explicit.

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