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ICLHE 2013: From Theory to Practice

ICLHE conferences.jpg
ICLHE 2013.jpg

The international conference “Integrating Content and Language in Higher Education” took place at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands, on 11-13 April, 2013.

Elisabeth Wielander (Aston University, UK) posted the following summary on the CLaRA blog at Aston University:


This was the third conference of its kind (after previous events held in 2003 and 2006) and, like its predecessors, it focused on how the integration of specialist content learning and language learning affect universities and other institutes of higher education worldwide.


In the years since the Bologna Declaration of June 1999, there has been a surge in undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in other languages – most notably English but also, if to a lesser degree, other languages. The findings presented at this conference are a reflection of the growing research interest in how the integration of discipline-specific content and (second or foreign) language learning is achieved in practice and what the implementation of ICLHE means in terms of education policy (on the international, national, regional, local and institutional level), theoretical and research frameworks, discipline and language pedagogy, teacher training, and student experience.

The conference brought together researchers and practitioners from around the world whose presentations addressed key themes such as:

  • policy: how local, regional, national and supra-national policies shape the design and implementation of the integration of content and language in higher education.

  • linguistic strains: the impact of the rise of English-medium instruction on the role of other languages and cultures in the higher education landscape

  • content: ICL and the access to content knowledge

  • language: the evolution of language competencies in ICLHE programmes

  • theory: theoretical frameworks for underpinning the integration of content and language


Two fascinating keynote speeches set the tone of the conference:

On Thursday, Prof Cecilia Jacobs (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) talked about “Mapping the terrains of ICLHE: a view from the south”: After setting the scene by discussing frameworks, key concepts and contextual agendas of ICLHE, she called for the abolishment of what she called ‘the dichotomy of language and culture’; instead, she proposed to put knowledge – and the knower – at the centre of ICL pedagogy.

On Friday, economist Prof Franҫois Grin (University of Geneva, Switzerland) spoke about “Foreign language skills, ‘linguistic work’ and the economic theorie of value”. First, he discussed the personal, social and national value added by multilingualism based on the example of Switzerland before turning to issues of internationalisation in HE. Specifically, he expressed concern about the unquestioned dominance of certain languages (often English, but not always) as medium of instruction, the possibility of ‘deliberate linguistic imperialism’, and some of the ‘negative value of internationalisation’. In his view, world language governance is needed, and he called for a ‘Linguistic Kyoto’ to be established.

At the conference dinner on Friday, April 12, Prof em. Geert Hofstede, who has a long affiliation with the ICLHE conference series, gave a talk about the “Seven Deadly Sins in a Multicultural World”.

A long list of speakers from Europe and beyond – early-career researchers, practitioners, and leading experts in the field – presented insightful papers about a wide range of issues relating to the integration of content and language at tertiary level.

CLaRA member and postgraduate researcher at Aston, Elisabeth Wielander, presented a paper titled ‘CLIL in UK Higher Education: Converging with and diverging from European models’.

And finally, on April 11, 2013, the provisional ICLHE Association was officially founded and its constitutive board elected.

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