ARRCIMS Seminar 'Illuminating Cambridge Admissions' and 'UGs investment in English'

Events — Research Seminar Online
4 March 2021, 09:30

We are very honoured to welcome Dr. Daniel Weston (University of Hong Kong) to our seminar series this term. Daniel has researched extensively in the area of sociolinguistics and in particular on discourse in gatekeeping encounters. In our seminar, he will talk about his research into Cambridge admissions interviews. See below for the abstract. 

As the second speaker in this seminar, Andrew Jarvis, our very own PhD candidate in Linguistics will present recent results of his PhD. He will talk about student investment in English at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. 

Dr. Daniel Weston 

Title: Illuminating Cambridge Admissions 

This paper is a discourse analytical account of the undergraduate admissions interview at the University of Cambridge, a gatekeeping encounter to which researchers have previously been denied access due to its politically sensitive nature. The paper explores interviews within two disciplines, English Literature and Economics, drawn from a broader corpus of over 60 hours of interview data, recorded in 2014. It finds that the admissions interview is, contrary to its name and reputation, best characterized at the interactional level as a teaching scenario in the guise of an assessment interview. The concepts of role, role performance, and role shifting are shown to be particularly useful for capturing the different interactional functions that the admissions interview encompasses, as well as accounting for the systemic breakdowns in communication between interviewer and candidate. These findings are then discussed in relation to the broader societal context, and in terms of future research directions. 

Andrew Jarvis, PhD student, ARU 

Title: Promise Vs Reality: First-year undergraduates’ investment in English at a university in Hong Kong    

More universities around the world are providing degree programmes in English. The promise of English for students includes enhanced language proficiency, increased employability, and opportunities for global networking. However, research into English-medium instruction has highlighted issues which contradict these promises. In this talk, I will present findings from my PhD study which focusses on student investment in English. The study used critical ethnography to track the experiences of ten undergraduates across their first year at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. These students use Cantonese as their first language and held the minimum English proficiency requirement to be admitted into the university. I will use Darvin and Norton’s (2015) model of investment to interpret the findings on the basis of identity, capital and ideology. The study shows the tension between the promise of English and the reality, and holds implications for university policy makers and language centres.      

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