Recommendations for FAU’s language policy

Foreign languages for the internationalisation of research and teaching

With its internationalisation strategy, FAU is aiming to provide the best possible preparation for its students to face global challenges in science and society in the future, to win the best talent from abroad for FAU, and to forge excellent international research networks. As a full-spectrum university with an international outlook, FAU’s internationalisation strategy has the objective of developing a multicultural community of students, teaching and administrative staff. Language is of key importance in this process, not only in terms of language education and infrastructure but also through language as a foundation for exchanging knowledge across national borders, international career and research profiles, and the University’s international profile. In their entirety, the measures described below form a language policy that support the objectives of the internationalisation strategy in FAU’s four areas of action: People – Education – Research – Outreach

Principles and guidelines for language policy at FAU

  • The educational goal of multilingualism
  • The role of English as an international language of communication and science
  • The promotion of German as a language of science and as a host language.

Target groups for language policy at FAU

  • Students from Germany and abroad
  • Researchers from Germany and abroad
  • Staff in teaching, administration and infrastructure
  • The FAU Language Centre as the institution responsible on the operational level.

Areas of action for language policy at FAU

  • Language education
  • International mobility
  • Links to international research
  • The international positioning of the University.

FAU is committed to developing its language policy flexibly as new needs arise. The University has a well-equipped and professional Language Centre, which is responsible for language teaching and other language services. FAU decided very early on to centralise language education for the entire University and is committed to the path it has set out in the objectives of this language policy.

1.1. The educational goal of multilingualism

FAU promotes the educational goal of multilingualism (see Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, 2001:17) and recognises the importance of multilingualism in securing peace and understanding. This is reflected in FAU’s strategic considerations and developments in our changing society and economy.

With this in mind, language policy must be perceived as an ongoing process which is reviewed and monitored on a regular basis. The Language Centre must therefore keep the range of courses it offers broad enough to

a) support multilingualism that is oriented towards studying and future careers

b) react flexibly to meet changing needs

c) ensure the diversity of FAU’s international profile.

On the one hand, multilingualism oriented towards studying and future careers involves common languages for study and communication such as English, Spanish, and increasingly Chinese, and on the other, languages from neighbouring European countries such as French, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Polish and Czech. In addition, specific demand also exists on a regular basis for languages such as Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish for the target regions of Islamic Theological Studies, Modern Greek for students of Archaeology and Art History, and also Swahili for aid work carried out by researchers in medicine and theology.

There is currently a demand for around 25 different foreign languages at FAU. This demand is continuously monitored and reviewed.

1.2. The role of English as an international language of communication and science

FAU recognises the exceptional role of English as an international language of communication and science and the need to promote appropriate language skills in all fields of internationalisation in a targeted manner.

1.3. The promotion of German as a language of science and as a host language

FAU agrees with the assessment of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) (see HRK press release from 24 January 2011) that the German language requires strategic positioning and support as a language of science. In addition, special importance is attached to German as a host language for international students and researchers.

FAU’s language policy is aimed at all members of the University, with varying implications in each case for

  • Students from Germany and abroad
  • Researchers from Germany and abroad
  • Staff in teaching, administration and infrastructure
  • The Language Centre as the central institute for foreign languages at FAU.

3.1. Language education

FAU supports its teaching staff and students with the varying language requirements of teaching and learning at the university.

3.1.1. Language courses integrated into degree programmes

Language courses that are listed as compulsory or compulsory elective modules in the degree programme and examination regulations are determined by degree programme managers in cooperation with the Language Centre. [FN1] The resources required must be provided on a permanent basis so that the language modules do not extend the overall duration of the study period.

3.1.2. Language courses taken alongside degree programmes

Language modules taken alongside degree programmes are organised by the Language Centre according to demand and the resources available. Students can usually take these courses as key qualifications or as elective modules. In addition to electives, students can also obtain the UNIcert® certificate for a wide range of languages.[FN2] Compared with other language certificates, UNIcert® provides comparable standards for all languages and certification for language teaching that is both appropriate and specific to universities.

3.1.3. Promoting the ability to study of international students

International students (with a university entrance qualification gained outside of Germany) must prove their ability to study by first taking an assessment examination (e.g. DSH or TestDaF). Preparatory courses for this purpose are run by the Förderverein zur Internationalisierung der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg e.V. (Association to promote internationalisation at FAU).

Even if students pass the examination, they still often require support with their language skills to study successfully, for example with academic writing or presentations in German. The Language Centre offers suitable support in this area both with language courses at levels C1/C2 and assistance with academic writing.

3.1.4. Ability to study international degree programmes: English language skills

International (Master’s) degree programmes are usually offered in English. Sufficient proficiency in English in all areas of teaching and study must be ensured.

For teaching staff, this means they must have sufficient skills to provide diagnostic advice, give presentations, and write and conduct examinations. Degree programme managers are responsible for selecting suitable teaching staff; the Language Centre can provide additional coaching if required.

For students, studying in English requires the relevant skills in listening and reading comprehension, academic writing and presentation as well as in taking written and oral examinations. The language skills required are defined by the degree programme managers in consultation with the Language Centre and are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Applicants are responsible for submitting an accredited CEFR certificate and this must be considered as a prerequisite for starting a degree programme. Subsequently gaining a certificate during the course of the degree programme is a considerable risk to successfully passing the degree.

3.1.5. Ability to study international degree programmes: German language skills

Language skills for everyday use in the host language of German are also essential for studying international degree programmes. Students whose native language is not German must provide proof of German language proficiency of at least level A1 during the course of the first year of study at the latest. FAU expressly promotes a lasting interest for German language and culture and offers students a wide range of courses that enable them to cope with situations in daily life and to ease the transition to working life in a German-speaking environment. This includes language courses and programmes to promote integration and improve language skills such as buddy programmes, intercultural training and other training courses.

3.2. International mobility

FAU regards the international mobility of students and researchers as an essential aspect of its international focus and the exchange of knowledge across linguistic borders. This results in a demand for language teaching for students who either spend a limited period of time at foreign university during their degree at FAU (outgoing students) or for students from abroad visiting FAU for a limited period of time (incoming students).

3.2.1. Familiarisation with the language for outgoing students

Familiarising outgoing students with a language involves providing sufficient knowledge in the national language of the country they are visiting in addition to ensuring their ability to study in the foreign language. This distinction becomes relevant if the language of study is not the same as the national language, as is the case for degree programmes taught in English.

Outgoing students are responsible for ensuring their language skills for everyday life in the host country are at a sufficient level; the Language Centre offers support here in around 25 languages. Proof of the ability of outgoing students to study in a foreign language must be provided for admission or for eligibility for support if applicable using a so-called mobility test, which can also be taken and certified at the Language Centre.

3.2.2. Language support for incoming students

Experience has shown that the German language skills of a large proportion of incoming students are often not sufficient. The wide range of support provided by the Language Centre includes everything from support with academic writing and presentation to completing all language training requirements set out in the Learning Agreement, mainly in German, but also in English and other languages.

3.3. Links to international research

Publications, abstracts and indexing in English are vital to ensure the international visibility of research activities at FAU.

FAU provides the following support in this area:

  • Writing consultations in English in the Writing Centre
  • Translations into English from German or proofreading of publications written in English via the Language Service

3.4. The international positioning of the University

As a university with an international outlook, it is essential that FAU communicates effectively with an international audience and provides information and infrastructure to support international students and researchers. (For more information read FAU’s internationalisation strategy.)

3.4.1. University communications in English

To support the internationalisation process, the FAU Language Service provides professional translations by native speakers. The FAU website and press releases are published in German and English.

3.22. Translations in English for admissions and administration

To ensure that University administration can also carry out its tasks in English, the Language Service provides translations of the most important forms, announcements, and documents in English. Translations into other languages can be provided by freelancers if required.

3.4.3. Support with language skills and training for administrative staff

FAU recognises that the increasing number of international staff in teaching and research requires administrative staff with suitable language skills. Some departments at FAU are extremely well-prepared for international communication, such as the Central Office for International Affairs (RIA), whereas other areas in administration still require support.

As part of the ‘Admins Going Global’ project for the internationalisation of administration, which is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Education, Science and the Arts, the Language Centre has set up a language training programme for administrative staff for improving the skills typically required for international contacts (telephone calls, e-mails, advice, etc.) in addition to individual coaching for specific requirements.

FN1: FAU currently offers modules integrated into degrees in 16 languages: Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German as a foreign language, English, Farsi, French, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Turkish.

FN2: The UNIcert® university certificate can currently be obtained in 16 languages at FAU: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Modern Greek,

Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Turkish.