How much English is used at NHH?

By Astri Inga Kamsvåg

9 September 2016 09:40

(updated: 9 September 2016 09:55)

How much English is used at NHH?

To map the growing use of English at NHH, we are distributing questionnaires to staff, students, former students and employers.

The project group consists of (from the left) Director of Studies Jorun Gunnerud, Ann-Mari Haram from the International Career Centre, Alumni Coordinator Morten Hilt, Ingrid Sjældnes from the Office of Research Administration, student Nikolai Belsvik, Astri Kamsvåg from the Office of Communications and Marketing and Deputy Rector/Dean for International Affairs Sunniva Whittaker. Associate Professor Marita Kristiansen at the Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication was absent when the picture was taken. Photo: Hallvard Lyssand

One of the consequences of the internationalisation at NHH is that a growing portion of staff and students do not speak Norwegian. With international academic staff, incoming exchange students and degree-taking students at NHH, we are now using English in contexts where we would previously have used Norwegian. This is true in teaching and dissemination contexts and of the administrative language at NHH.

To find out how much English is used and in what work and study contexts, we are now broadly asking academic staff, technical/administrative staff, bachelor's degree students, master's degree students, alumni and employers about this. The surveys cover verbal and written situations during the spring semester of 2016.

In parallel with the spread of English at NHH and in the rest of the university and university college sector, NHH has a national responsibility for developing Norwegian business administration terminology. Are we giving students a sufficiently good professional vocabulary in Norwegian? Or is it fine that they use English terms even when speaking Norwegian? How should we best solve this challenge?

Applies to both Norwegian and English

English business administration terminology is not affected by whether teaching in Norway takes place in English or Norwegian. However, the situation is not the same for Norwegian business administration terminology. The development of Norwegian business administration terminology depends on Norwegian educational institutions taking responsibility for the development of the Norwegian terminology. In teaching and supervision contexts, academic staff are responsible for giving students a good vocabulary in the language of instruction. Most NHH graduates must relate to Norwegian and English, both during their studies and once they are working. How can NHH best prepare its students?

Thus far, the compulsory courses in the bachelor's programme have been taught in Norwegian. However, this autumn we are for the first time introducing a compulsory bachelor's course taught in English.

"Since half of our bachelor's students go on exchange, they are already used to being taught in English. For many, the transition will therefore not be that great", says Deputy Rector Sunniva Whittaker. She is in charge of International Affairs at NHH.

"It will be exciting to see how the Norwegian bachelor's students find being taught in English here at NHH", says Sunniva Whittaker.

In the master's programme, about 70 per cent of the teaching is in English, and at the doctoral level all teaching is in English. How can we develop Norwegian business administration terminology in these programmes of study?

Equipped for the labour market?

Former students and a select number of companies will also be sent a questionnaire. We are asking two years of alumni whether they find that their education has equipped them adequately for the labour market. Do they master English and Norwegian well enough to use it in professional contexts? Do they have a sufficient handle on terminology and concepts in both languages?

Employers are asked the same question: Do NHH graduates have sufficient competency in English and Norwegian to use it in various communication situations, verbally and in writing?

"The questionnaire is to give us a picture of the current status, of how we actually use English and Norwegian within the various areas of the institution.

Sunniva Whittaker, Deputy Rector and Dean for International Affairs

Various approaches

We ask those who teach the students, we ask students at various levels while they are students, we ask employers and we ask alumni who have been working for three and ten years, respectively.

"By asking relatively broadly, we hope to include as many experiences as possible that can help us take our national responsibility seriously", explains Sunniva Whittaker.

Appropriate distribution

"I hope that everyone takes the time to respond to the survey so that we are able to collect as complete a data set as possible", the Deputy Rector encourages. 

"The questionnaire is to give us a picture of the current status, of how we actually use English and Norwegian within the various areas of the institution. The project gives us a good opportunity to reflect on how we think the distribution between Norwegian and English should be in the various communication contexts at NHH", says Whittaker.

"We have a growing share of international academic staff at NHH, and we want to attract more international students. Much has happened at the School since the Board adopted the language guidelines in the spring of 2010. Now it is time to see whether the language guidelines are adapted to the current and future activities at NHH", says Sunniva.

Model for the sector

Based on the data the survey provides and our reflections around this, NHH will develop a model for an appropriate distribution between English and Norwegian in the university and university college sector in Norway, on assignment from the Language Council of Norway.

The survey is part of a project that maps the use of English versus local languages in the university and university college sector in the Nordic countries.

"The language used in the higher education sector is important, not least because the language choices made there have a great impact on the language used in the Norwegian labour market and business sector", says Åse Wetås, the Director General of the Language Council of Norway.

"The best practice project at NHH will allow us to develop a method for how educational institutions are to make good and wise language choices. The Language Council of Norway is delighted to have such a renowned and reputable institution as NHH as our partner in this very important language policy project", Wetås concludes.

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