The Complex and Changing Face of Higher-Education Language Teaching in the Republic of Ireland.
The landscape of language learning and teaching in higher education (HE) in Ireland
is complex and varied. Between institutions, a diversity of organisational structures are
identifiable and, even within institutions, it can be seen that the provision of language
education can vary significantly. In this paper, we present an overview of complexity
within language education in Irish higher education which we investigated as part of
our scoping exercise for the Higher Education Language Educator Competences
(HELECs) project. In order to manage this complexity, we have taken a number of
different approaches to gathering and analysing relevant data. Firstly, we attempt to
ascertain which languages are offered and the programmes within which they are
available. We rely here on data gathered by Post-Primary Languages Ireland (PPLI)
and published on the Careers Portal website. Secondly, we present an analysis of the
structure of language provision units within Universities and Institutes of Technology
(IoTs). These data are publicly available through the institutions’ websites. Thirdly, we
provide a detailed examination of the complex constellation of staff profiles involved in
language education at four institutions representing the categories of higher education
institutions (HEIs) in the system. We interrogate language units’ websites to obtain this
information and augment it with data gathered through the HELECs project. In
presenting these data, we aim to provide an overview of the landscape of language
teaching and learning in HE in Ireland. In conducting this data analysis, we identify
areas of concern for the sector including: the visibility of languages within HEIs; the
multiplicity of professional identities of those who teach language in HE; and issues of
precarity of employment and career progression in HE language education.
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