English Studies in Non-Anglophone Contexts

East Europe: Higher Education in Bulgaria and Romania

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Outline

This project, currently funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, involves collaboration between colleagues in higher education (HE) institutions in Bulgaria and Romania to assess the current condition and prospects of English Studies after EU accession. English Studies is understood as comprised of both language/linguistics and literature/culture (wherever English literary and cultural products are generated and circulated).

The project aims to understand:

  • the condition of the discipline in East European HE in terms of curriculum content;
  • the condition of the discipline in terms of programme delivery (teaching, learning, assessment), and how local needs are catered;
  • the condition of the discipline in terms of research and scholarship;
  • the history and practice of the discipline in East European HE compared to its development in Britain particularly and Anglophone contexts generally;
  • factors (social, institutional, cultural) underpinning the history, current practice and prospects of the discipline in East European countries that have recently become integrated within an enlarged EU.

The project objectives are:

  • To gather data and material relevant to the above and analyse these: through consultation of existing scholarly publications; through consultation of reports and records of relevant institutions and professional bodies; by conducting student surveys; by conducting interviews with academics, employers, administrators, etc.; by conducting surveys of relevant programmes and curricula in different institutions; by organising events such as workshops and conferences.
  • To prepare research publications in the form of journal papers, co-edited volumes, and monographs.
  • To make some of the key data and material that arises from this project widely accessible through this website.

Contexts

The contexts of this project are at several levels:

  • At the broadest level it explores the place of English Studies in non-Anglophone contexts. The discipline’s institutional development has so far been understood exclusively in terms of Anglophone contexts. Studies assume that the development of English Studies in the academy is intricately meshed with the use of English as an everyday/ordinary language: therefore British/North American/Anglophone colonial and postcolonial cultural histories and current conditions are regarded as the field that contains and sets the norm for English Studies. However English Studies have been pursued in distinctive ways in many non-Anglophone contexts, particularly in Europe, for almost as long as in Britain. With the expansion of English as a global lingua franca, and with technologically enhanced international flows of cultural commodities and information in English, there is evidence of growth in English Studies outside Anglophone contexts. Research into English Studies in non-Anglophone contexts has been largely neglected so far. At the broadest level then, this project explores the place of English Studies in two non-Anglophone contexts, Romania and Bulgaria, which will: (a) convey a sense of the discipline in non-Anglophone contexts generally; and (b) interrogate the dominant understanding of the discipline, currently centred on Anglophone contexts.
  • At a more focused level this project contributes toward understanding English Studies vis-à-vis: (a) the specificities of HE in Romania and Bulgaria, and (b) the exigencies of EU enlargement. The focus here is the socio-political context after Bulgaria’s and Romania’s EU-accession on 1 January 2007. The relevant legislative environments in both are responding accordingly: the prevailing Bulgarian HE Act of 2002 and the Romanian Education Act of 1995 are both under revision to implement the Bologna Process. These two HE contexts are appropriate for this project because both possess well-established English Studies traditions, dating back to the early 20th century. Universities in both offer higher degrees following English Studies programmes, combining literary/cultural with language/linguistics courses. Other programmes offered in both are also relevant, e.g.: combining English with other languages, or British and/or American Studies with other area studies; comparative literature and linguistics; translation and interpretation. In both countries relevant professional bodies exist: such as, The Bulgarian Society of American Studies, The Bulgarian Association of British Studies, The Centre for British Cultural Studies (in Bucharest), The Society for English and American Studies (Romania), and the Romanian Association of American Studies. The British Council and Fulbright Commission are active in both. In terms of student recruitment and academic output, English Studies is now a growth area that far outstrips any other foreign language-based discipline in both countries.
  • Three existing research contexts provide the scholarly background for this project, and define its distinct contribution. These are: (1) research in English Studies within Bulgaria and Romania; (2) panoptic Europe-wide surveys of English Studies; (3) research on the development of English Studies in Anglophone contexts.

Current Position and Prospects

An initial phase of material collection along the lines described above covering three universities in Bulgaria has been initiated from September 2007. It is hoped that further material collection in a similar fashion covering institutions in both Bulgaria and Romania will be undertaken soon. One Interdepartmental Meeting was organised in Bulgaria, and three workshops involving colleagues from three universities in Bulgaria and three universities in Romania and colleagues from the Open University’s Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Education and Modern Languages are planned in the academic year 2008-2009 (see events). In the longer term it is hoped that the organisers would be able to extend this project to other countries in East and Central Europe, and further afield (including beyond Europe) in due course.