Linguicism and Racism in Assessment Practices in Higher Education


  • Ahmar Mahboob Department of Linguistics, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Eszter Szenes Department of Linguistics, The University of Sydney, Australia



Writing Assessment, Linguicism, Racism, Discrimination, Genre Pedagogy


This paper aims to demonstrate how linguicism, a kind of “linguistically argued racism” (Phillipson, 1992), concealed by existing requirements of writing assessment based solely on ‘standard’ academic varieties of English contributes to the language-based discrimination of international students at an Australian university. In order to achieve the purposes of this study, we will provide evidence from one context on how students’ performance on graded assignments (as marked by the course lecturers) correlates with their language proficiency (as measured independently by trained language experts). After looking at the quantitative data, we will present detailed linguistic analyses of students’ writing to show how texts written by students from a North American, British, and Australian (NABA) background differ from texts written by students from a South and South East Asian (SESEA) background. The findings from these analyses will be used to discuss the role of World Englishes and race in assessment practices in higher education.

Author Biographies

Ahmar Mahboob, Department of Linguistics, The University of Sydney, Australia

Ahmar Mahboob is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. Ahmar has published on a range of topics including: language teaching, teacher education, language policy, educational linguistics, and World Englishes. Ahmar is the co-editor of Questioning Linguistics with Naomi Knight (2008), Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning with Caroline Lipovsky (2009), The NNEST Lens: Non-native English Speakers in TESOL (2010), and Appliable Linguistics with Naomi Knight (2010).

Eszter Szenes, Department of Linguistics, The University of Sydney, Australia

Eszter Szenes is a PhD candidate and a casual lecturer/tutor at the Department of Linguistics and Fsculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney. She graduated as a Master of Arts in English Language and Literature and TESOL in 2005 in Budapest, Hungary. Her research interests include Systemic Functional Linguistics, academic literacy, writing assessment, Critical Discourse Analysis, World Englishes, Cross-cultural Communication, NNEST studies and Critical Applied Linguistics.


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How to Cite

Mahboob, A., & Szenes, E. (2010). Linguicism and Racism in Assessment Practices in Higher Education. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 3(3), 325–354.