The need for English
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – the teaching of English with the specific aim of helping learners to study, conduct research or teach in that language – is an international activity of tremendous scope. It is carried out in four main geographical domains, each of which exhibits particular characteristics and purposes. It is carried out, first, in the major English-speaking countries (the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand), where large numbers of overseas students whose first language is not English come to study. It is conducted, second, in the former colonial territories of Britain (and less importantly the United States) where English is a second language and is used as the medium of instruction at university level. It is conducted, third, in countries which have no historic links with English, but which need to access the research literature in that language (the countries of Western Europe, Japan, China, Latin America, Francophone Africa and others).1 And finally, EAP is now increasingly being offered in the countries of the former Soviet-bloc, as they seek to distance themselves from the influence of Russia and its language and position themselves as participants in the increasingly global economy and academic community.
To give some indication of the demand for EAP, if we take the first of the four areas mentioned – the countries where English is a first language – in 1996–7, 457,984 foreign students were studying in the US (Davis, 1997) and 198,064 in the UK (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 1997). While these numbers are already very considerable, they are likely to comprise only a minority of the likely target EAP population.