‘The rules above the bed’: academic language and learning as hospitality

Dana Chahal, Juana Maria Rodriguez, Britta Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In times of widening participation, Australian universities trade on notions of diversity, framing themselves as hospitable places of access and inclusion. In this space, Academic Language and Learning (ALL) practitioners may be seen as extending the welcome of the university through practices aimed at addressing students’ diverse needs. These include identifying students ‘at-risk’ of failure and attrition, conducting one-to-one appointments, and embedding academic literacies by team-teaching within disciplines. In this paper, we reflect on these practices through the lens of Derrida’s notion of hospitality, drawing on key themes such as the constitutive power relationships of hospitality, the aporia between conditional and unconditional hospitality, and hospitality as an ethics of difference and openness to the ‘arrival of the new’. For each of the explored practices, we problematise the institutionalised framing of ALL practitioners as hosts in benevolent universities providing an unreserved welcome to the student ‘foreigner’. We examine the practice of identifying students-at-risk and question a conditional hospitality that risks closing the door on the unforeseeable that students may bring. Our reflection on the managerially devalued one-to-one appointments highlights hospitality as ethics, with each appointment presenting a crisis of choice in responsibly welcoming student difference. Team-teaching exposes the ambiguity of the ALL practitioner ‘being at-home’ in embedded contexts while presenting the possibility for disrupting established roles and practices. Engaging with Derrida’s hospitality thus allows us to uncover power dynamics shaping the role of ALL practitioners and offers the possibility of ethical responsiveness to student difference and a radical opening to the new.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-906
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2019


  • Academic English
  • access
  • diversity
  • ethics
  • higher education
  • hospitality
  • inclusion
  • philosophy
  • students-at-risk

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