Posted on: 31 May 2012
Written by: joel
Because with the recent announcement from leading Italian university, the Politecnico di Milano, that is about to become a lot easier. In 2014 the university will be switching the majority of its degree courses, and all its graduate courses, to English. Obviously good news for students here in the UK; who wouldn’t be attracted to studying in the UK? The attraction is clear for the university too. By switching to English it can attract students from the UK, USA, Middle East and Asia. Furthermore, the importance of English to the academic worlds of science and engineering means that switching language will make it easier for the university to contribute to worldwide research and attract world-class researchers. And as the East, especially the likes of India and China, exerts more and more influence on higher education and Western institutions seek to take advantage by planting satellite campuses abroad, the importance of a common language – English – will continue to rise.
Not everyone agrees with the Politecnico di Milano’s decision, though. Emilio Matricciani, a professor at the university, argues that “speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures”. As a loyal Englishman, I hope Professor Matricciani isn’t making a claim about the merits of the English language! I suggest he takes some lessons.
Whatever the Professor’s issue with English, he does does raise a legitimate concern. English is the go-to language of higher education because it is the most common second language. If Italian and Indian students wish to communicate in a chemistry lab, they probably need to speak in English. But what impact, if any, does this have on your education? It’s surely inevitable that being taught a degree course by someone speaking in their 2nd language, learning a degree course in your 2nd language, and studying alongside those speaking their 2nd language, will change the learning experience. English and American students escape this problem for now (until another language overtakes English, at any rate), but for everyone else the language of higher education is becoming an increasinly pertinent issue.