By John Read (auth.)
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However, the voluntary nature of the assessment meant that student uptake of this recommendation was limited. While participation in DELA increased from 554 students in 2003 to a high of 786 students in 2006, it soon tapered off again. These numbers represented only a small proportion of EAL enrolments at the University, and there were concerns that those who might have benefited most from English language development were not presenting themselves for the assessment. Concerns about the efficacy of the voluntary assessment policy coincided with intense discussion within the higher education sector more broadly, following an influential report by Birrell (2006) reporting on low levels of proficiency amongst international students graduating from Australian universities.
Phillipson (2009a, pp. 16–17) reports that in 2006 the Nordic Council of Ministers approved a Nordic Language Policy, which was particularly concerned with the use of languages in higher education and research. The ministers sought to ensure that the languages of their countries would continue to be used, in parallel with English, in the teaching of science and the presentation of scientific results. It remains to be seen how effectively the policy can be carried out in practical terms, but some Nordic universities have adopted their own language policies.
The use of English as a medium also puts these institutions in a much better position to recruit international students than the public universities, which are largely limited to drawing on Malay-speaking students from neighbouring Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei. Malaysian students entering public universities are still predominantly Malays, in spite of the scrapping in 2002 of ethnic quotas which had previously given them priority admission to the public institutions. As previously noted, they need to have proficiency in English to make 16 Assessing English Proficiency for University Study the most of their studies and improve their employment prospects upon graduation.