Original Research

University students’ perspectives on an English-only language policy in Higher Education

Sizakele A. Ngidi, Elliot M. Mncwango
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 18, No 1 | a1189 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v18i1.1189 | © 2022 Sizakele A. Ngidi, Elliot M. Mncwango | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 December 2021 | Published: 01 November 2022

About the author(s)

Sizakele A. Ngidi, Department of Communication Science, Faculty of Humanities, Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Elliot M. Mncwango, Department of General Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zululand, Kwa-Dlangezwa, South Africa


The study aimed to determine students’ perspectives on a shift from a dual-medium (English and Afrikaans) language policy to a monolingual (English-only) language policy at a University of Technology in South Africa and to establish whether the shift had any impact on student learning at the institution. The study used a quantitative method of inquiry, with a questionnaire used for data collection. The findings revealed that language-related challenges vary amongst students, and these can be categorised as low, medium and high language learning problems. The article concludes that the language policy shift does not reflect the multilingual nature of the c ountry, student demographics or their language needs at the institution. Instead of addressing the real challenge facing the majority of students who speak Sesotho, it merely dropped a second medium of instruction (MOI), Afrikaans, instead of developing a dominant indigenous language (Sesotho) for educational use alongside English and Afrikaans.

Transdisciplinarity Contribution: The article lays bare the access paradox in higher education owing to the misalignment between the country’s progressive language policies and learning institutions’ language policies. The students’ perspectives bring a much-needed dimension to the ongoing debate on the use of the learners’ home languages as languages of learning and teaching.


language policy shift; English; indigenous languages; monolingual language policy; language rights.


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