English and the academy for African skilled migrants: The impact of English as an ‘Academic lingua franca’

Academic Mobility

ISBN: 978-1-78350-853-2, eISBN: 978-1-78350-854-9

ISSN: 1479-3628

Publication date: 10 July 2014


This chapter analyses interviews with 13 African scholars from a range of countries who are currently working at a South African university. The interviews explore aspects of their migration journeys and the role that language, particularly the English language, has played in their mobility. The majority of the participants originate from English-speaking African countries, and are fluent English speakers. English is currently the international language of the academy, and English fluency can almost be seen as a prerequisite for an international academic career. The driving question behind this research is what have these African highly skilled academic migrants gained and lost from English in terms of their mobility, careers and identities? The participants show complex orientations towards the medium. On the one hand, English is recognised as an enabling medium for international success in academia, and for career and educational opportunities aboard. On the other hand, participants perceive that the emphasis on the English medium has negative effects on their relationships with their home languages and their home countries. The research raises questions about the role of English in higher education in Africa.


Hurst, E. (2014), "English and the academy for African skilled migrants: The impact of English as an ‘Academic lingua franca’", Academic Mobility (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 153-173. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-362820140000011015

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