ESSE publications

A Survey of English Studies in Europe at the Turn of the Century
compiled by Martin A. Kayman with the assistance of Filomena Mesquita

The Survey, which was originally published in volume 14.1 of The Messenger (Spring 2005) can now be downloaded in pdf format. This is its introduction:


This project was inspired by a sense that discussions of ‘English studies in Europe’ were bedevilled by a tendency to assume that what others do under the title of ‘English’, ‘Anglo-American Studies’ or the like was, broadly speaking, similar to what we ourselves do. Even when one registered the fact that things were inevitably different in some respects, it was rarely the most important ones, since these were precisely our ‘natural’ or ‘common sense’ ways of doing things, the unexamined cultural assumptions that it is so difficult to make visible. Take, for example, the language of instruction. In a large number of countries, colleagues find it hard to understand how it is possible to teach ‘English’ in a language other than English: it is obvious that is what you do. Yet elsewhere, it is felt to be equally natural to teach in the students’ own language.

Through the 1990s, as people became increasingly exposed to activities in other countries, either in the context of the European Society for the Study of English, Socrates-Erasmus exchanges, or the British Council’s Oxford Conference or Literature Symposium, awareness necessarily grew of the existence of considerable differences in the way English was configured, taught and studied across Europe. But what precisely were those differences? How substantial were they? Were they merely local ‘translations’ of a ‘common core’ of studying English, or effectively incommensurable constructions of the discipline?

The seeds for a project aimed at providing some answers grew from a panel discussion on the topic led by myself and Tom Healy at the ESSE conference held in Debrecen in 1997. ESSE and the British Council agreed to support a survey aimed at establishing reliable information about the variety of meanings ‘English’ has in the context of Higher Education in Europe. Such information became more important with the announcement of the Bologna agreement in 1999.

The original aim was to produce both a report and a database providing a snap-shot of arrangements for teaching and studying English in Europe immediately before Bologna began to be implemented. At its most ambitious, the survey would serve as a basis for monitoring the impact of the agreement on the shape of English Studies in Europe through subsequent five-year surveys.

As the reader will see below, the project did not achieve all its, eventually over-ambitious, goals. There were various reasons; whilst some are, in a sense, accidental—determined by the precarious circumstances in which the project developed—others, I would argue, have more significance for our understanding of the variety within the discipline in different educational contexts precisely because they bring us up against the (in)visibility of some of the most substantial differences.

The European History of English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline

Two volumes have been published, Volume I (2000) and Volume II (2008).

The editors are Balz Engler and Renate Haas. Leicester.

For more information on the EHES project (tables of contents, ordering information, list of contributors, etc.), check the EHES homepage.

The Messenger has initiated the publication of supplements to its regular newsletter: 
  • the report from the Berlin meeting on Resources for Scholarship in Eastern Europe (1999), which is available in pdf format. This is the introduction to the Report:

The following reports were prepared for a conference held at the Humboldt University in Berlin in September, 1998. There more than a dozen Eastern European scholars presented summaries of the state of resources available in their respective countries. The reports are much more varied than was expected, but a few focal points are clear: inadequate libraries, inadequate office equipment and space, and salaries, often as not, insufficient to support a minimal household, let alone allow the purchase of foreign books or periodicals. In some countries the situation has deteriorated further: at the time of writing, the university teachers in Romania are being warned that their salaries cannot be paid out from September on.
For the reader in the West some of these reports may seem strangely uninformative, here and there downright innocent: few scholars say outright how pitiful their monthly salaries are: few of them mention that they lack the resources taken for granted in the West, such as getting the postage and fax costs of professional correspondence paid for by the university, not to speak of telephone calls. Recently a German colleague complained that he had offered a run of a scholarly journal to Eastern libraries, generously suggesting that all they had to do was pay the packing and postage. He complained that his offer was not even honoured by a reply. One of the aims of this publication is to point out that the individual scholar would have to take over these costs, and that this might amount to more than that scholar earns in a month. The reader in the West may be unaware that air mail postage might well cost the equivalent of a loaf of bread. The salary differential in some cases approaches a ratio of a hundred to one!
In other words, we need to read between the lines of these reports, adding information the significance of which their compilers could not know. Many a scholar in the West is notyet aware that some of the paperbacks he has relegated to the rubbish bin in the West would be precious commodities for teachers as well as students in another part of Europe. It is significant that the ESSE journal EJES (European Journal of English Studies) has not been seen by most of the scholars who represent their national societies on the ESSE Board: the subscription rates are prohibitive. It is also important to know that books sent to libraries occasionally land on the black market, or will not be catalogued for two years, whereas a book sent to a teacher can be lent out to students immediately, and is more likely to be returned and lent out again.
It was not the primary aim of the Berlin conference to find immediate solutions to the problems of resourcing for scholarship. But our discussions made clear that face-to-face contacts are of the essence. For instance, many a scholar in France or Germany has books to dispose of, but does not know where to send them. Personal contacts also make the exchange of scholarly journals possible. Stacks of them gather dust in the West, whereas many libraries in the East receive no scholarly journal published in the West except for The Messenger. Face-to-face contacts also make possible a departmental exchange of journals (in the East often as not to be had for the cost of the postage stamp) and can thread the needle of joint East-East as well as East-West research projects, which are in our discipline as yet as good as unknown.
What the ESSE-furnished contacts have thus far failed to bring about is an exchange of ideas about human rather than material resources. In the East the number of contact hours with students tends to be very high: whereas a student in the West may have 10 to 15 hours in a class or seminar each week, the number is often double that in the East. This difference not only reflects fundamental differences in the concept of higher education, but also means a strain on human resources which could be relieved. The national reports in the following pages, in other words, are only part of the story: what we need to follow up are not only the complaints and suggestions touched on, but also the blank spaces which increased contact has begun to reveal.
Helmut Bonheim
July, 1999

  • Jan Rusiecki's report on Postgraduate Studies in Europe (2000), which is similarly available in pdf format. This is the introduction to the Report:
This paper presents an outline survey of the structure of postgraduate study of English in selected countries of Europe. One must be aware from the start, however, that the term 'postgraduate studies' varies from country to country. In many countries the undergraduate programme ends with the BA degree (or equivalent), so that postgraduate study begins with the MA programme. On the other hand, there are countries, like Germany, where there is no BA degree, only a uniform undergraduate course leading directly to the MA  (or a degree more or less equivalent to the MA). In certain other countries, such as Poland, some universities have begun to award BA degrees, while others follow the German model. On the other hand, in France even the basic undergraduate course, the equivalent of the BA course elsewhere, is in two parts.
The survey necessarily begins, then, with a brief sketch of undergraduate programmes in nine countries, referring the reader to section 2 (on the MA degree) where necessary. We shall begin with England (and Wales), and Denmark - the countries which have a two-tier BA + MA system - and then pass on to France, which has a system of its own. Finally we shall have a look at Germany and the countries which follow - or, until recently, used to follow - the German model: Portugal, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Russia.

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