An ‘imagined community’: Re-imagining students’ expectations of academic study

Elisabeth Wilding


This paper reports on a small-scale research project into Chinese pre-sessional students’ expectations of academic study on their future postgraduate degree courses, with an analysis that draws on the concept of ‘imagined communities’ as elaborated by Pavlenko and Norton (2007). The findings taken from a survey and focus groups highlight the powerful influence that students’ hopes and expectations of future study and work can have on their experiences in the EAP classroom. A perceived discrepancy between students’ social or professional aspirations and their lived experience on a pre-sessional course can create significant anxiety. An understanding of this divergence as a source of additional stress could usefully inform EAP teaching practice, for example, reinforcing the value of task-based classroom activities designed to bring the future professional and EAP spheres closer together.