Ivory Tower or Tower of Babel? The challenge of multilingualism for the globally embedded university

Ravit Mizrahi-Shtelman*, Gili S. Drori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Higher education organizations in countries where English is not the native tongue must function in a multilingual mode, using English as their primary language for scientific exchange and academic publication and relying on the native language for instruction and administration. When operating in a multilingual mode of communication and identity expression, a higher education organization runs the risk of becoming a “tower of Babel”; however, by operating solely in single-language mode, it may become an “ivory tower.” Investigating Israeli higher education organizations and focusing specifically on their mission statements, we analyzed the built-in tension of this multilingual self-identification through how they introduce themselves in the lingua franca of global academe, namely English, and in the local language, Hebrew. In our analysis, we found: (a) differences between the English- and Hebrew-language mission statements in length, style, and context; (b) differences in thematic emphases and thus in the narration of organizational identity; and (c) that such thematic differences patterned according to the three categories of state-mandated higher education organizations and, to some degree, time. We conclude that multilingualism serves both as an arena for the negotiation of organizational identity and as a state of being for higher education organizations in non-English-speaking countries.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1357-1379
Number of pages23
JournalHigher Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Globalization
  • Israel
  • Lingua franca
  • Multilingualism
  • Organizational identity


Dive into the research topics of 'Ivory Tower or Tower of Babel? The challenge of multilingualism for the globally embedded university'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this