© Kingsley Bolton and Maria Kuteeva

Summary of the findings

Responses and response rate:

A total of 668 academic staff (including approx. 120 PhD students) and 4,524 students (Bachelor and Master) responded to the questionnaires.


Broadly speaking, the demographic characteristics of the sample matched those of the general staff population fairly well. The proportion of males to females was 51% to 49%. Approx. 3% of the sample was aged between 21 and 30, 53% between 31 and 60, and 20% over the age of 61. 79% of staff and 75% of PhD students gave their nationality as Swedish; international staff originated from 35 countries.


The demographic characteristics of the sample matched those of the general staff population fairly well. The proportion of females to males was 64% to 36%, approx. 70% of the sample was aged between 17 and 30, 20% between 31 and 45, and 10% over the age of 45. 75% of Master’s students gave their nationality as Swedish, compared with 89% of undergraduate students; international students originated from 120 countries.

All results were weighted by Faculty.

Some key findings:

There were 59 and 41 questions in the staff and student questionnaires respectively. Based on the analysis of the results, we can conclude that there is considerable variation in the use of English at SU, with generally much greater use of English in the Science and Social Sciences Faculties, and much less in Law and the Humanities. There is also considerable variation concerning exposure to/use of spoken and written English versus reading materials. Overall, 45% of students reported that ‘All/almost all’ of their reading was in English, with a further 22% reporting ‘About half’. By contrast, 79% of students reported that they ‘Rarely’ or ‘Never’ have seminars in English (although this figure was very different for Master’s and PhD students).

There are somewhat mixed findings from the self-reports of staff and students regarding proficiency in English. Both these groups report generally high levels of proficiency in general English, but both groups also indicate that they would welcome much greater support in using English as an academic language, particularly in writing. It is noteworthy that the Faculties of the Humanities, Law and Social Sciences manifest more interest in academic English courses and other kinds of language support, which shows that language plays a fundamental role in these disciplines. There was also an overwhelming need for editing/proofreading support for staff publishing in English, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Mixed attitudes surface in relation to the use of English as a teaching medium. Overall, among both staff and students, there is significant support for having some courses taught in English at both the undergraduate and especially the postgraduate level.
A summary of selected results is available here (pdf)

Some recurrent themes in additional comments made by SU staff:

  • The importance of English for international competitiveness
  • Some disciplines would not manage without English (Science and IT)
  • A need for a bilingual or multilingual academic environment
  • Writing in academic English is different – more support should be provided
  • Support for publication purposes is important
  • PhD students need more writing support
  • Students need more support in writing, regardless of the language

Some recurrent themes in additional comments made by SU students:

  • More courses in English should be offered at the undergraduate level
  • SU should offer courses in advanced English (academic writing)
  • Need for more specialised instruction (e.g. Business, Law, Science), not enough English at school
  • More courses and degrees in English would increase the rating of SU internationally
  • A lot of code-switching in lectures (English/Swedish)
  • Students should be able to choose the language of study when enrolling

For further information, please contact Maria Kuteeva, Director of the Centre for Academic English, at maria.kuteeva@english.su.se.