A Reflection on Pedagogical Rationale in the Neoliberal University: The Case of Self‐Access Language Centres

Marion Krauthaker

Abstract


This article describes the findings of a project which reviewed self‐access Language Centres (SALC) in the UK between 2014 and 2016. The aim was to delineate current practices and better understand the very irregular format of these facilities which do not exist, or have not survived, in some universities and range from state of the art buildings to a few shelves in the corner of libraries in others. Ten SALC were visited and twelve interviews of managing staff were conducted. The data collected established the landscape of SALC in terms of spaces, equipment, staffing, activities as well as planned development and challenges. The data analysis revealed that although their pedagogical mission, rationale and benefits have been demonstrated and widely accepted since the 1990s, SALC encounter major challenges in the second decade of the 21st century and find it difficult to justify their existence, attract regular funding and ensure their continuation. This situation is then considered in light of the latest educational reforms and the place given to the discipline of Modern languages. A discussion on pedagogical needs in the age of the corporate reform leads to suggesting a series of avenues to rethink SALC. Overall this project highlighted the importance of reflecting on our disciplines, facilities and values in a critical fashion and the urgency to connect our practices with a rapidly changing educational and political UK.


Keywords


modern languages; language centres; self‐access; learning needs; pedagogical rationale; neoliberalism; higher education; educational policies; educational reforms

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