Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Beth Goldstein


This study examines university English-medium Instruction (EMI) reform implementation approaches from a comparative organizational perspective. Over the last decade, the number of master’s degree programs instructed exclusively in English in non-Anglophone Europe increased dramatically. Europe is an interesting case as it actively promotes multilingual learning; however, many European policies over the last twenty years accelerated the rise of monolingual EMI reforms, especially at the graduate-level. The purpose of this exploratory study is to contribute to our understanding of how widespread EMI reforms impact structures and behaviors at the organizational level in European universities in ways that respond to the organization’s embedded policy contexts.

This research aims to advance our understandings of comparative EMI reforms and also, drawing on the concepts of neoinstitutional theory, develop our knowledge of how these processes might be theorized and expanded. I combine the theoretical frames of translation and institutional logics to analyze empirical case studies of the implementation of the EMI reform concept in three Northern European universities in leading EMI provider countries: the University of Oslo in Norway, the University of Göttingen in Germany, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The theoretical concept of institutional complexity is used to analyze the contending tensions universities confront when deciding the best way to design and implement EMI reforms.

The three-axis comparative framework developed in this study represents a novel approach to examining variations in EMI reform implementation. Variations in organizational EMI implementation approaches (collegial, targeted, and market) are understood by analyzing comparatively how the three universities interpreted axial tensions between institutional logics for the best way to organize their EMI reform approaches: for academic or economic purposes; cooperative or competitive purposes; and local or global purposes. This comparative case study underscores the importance of examining a university’s embedded environment (both European and local levels) to understand university response to widespread EMI reform trends and highlights the significance of contextual dynamics to European EMI program development policy. The study concludes with policy recommendations and future directions.