Adrian Holliday

Professor of Applied Linguistics & Intercultural Education at Canterbury Christ Church University




Intercultural communication and ideology, discourses of culture, the politics of international English language education, English in the world, cultural imperialism, qualitative research methods

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This site describes Adrian’s academic profile and work – his ideas, publications and activities. It represents a history of his career, which began in English language education in Iran the early 1970s, and has travelled through engagements with a global cultural politics to arrive at current interest in the ideological underpinnings of intercultural communication. This trajectory has also taken in a fascination with the everyday complexities of social life and how to investigate them through sociology and qualitative research. This has recently been traced to early inspirations as an undergraduate student of sociology.

He began his career as a teacher of English, History, Economics and Sociology at North Romford Comprehensive School in London, where, in 1972, he wrote a course in sociology. He then went to Iran in 1973 as a teacher of English at the British Council Centre in Tehran, and then managed a small British Council curriculum unit in Ahwaz and designed technical English programmes for oil company technicians and engineers.

Higher Languages Institute, Damascus University

After his masters degree at Lancaster University, between 1980 and 85 he was instrumental in setting up the English for Special Purposes Centre at Damascus University. This is now the successful Higher Languages Institute.

Between 1985 and 90 he was involved in a national university curriculum project in Egypt. Located at the Centre for Developing English Language Teaching (CDELT), Ain Shams University, this took in 18 universities across the country. This project provided the experience of the global politics of English and the ethnographic material which informed his PhD thesis at Lancaster University in 1990.

While at Canterbury Christ Church University, between 2002 and 2017 he was the Head of The Graduate School, where he provided academic management for research degrees across the University. He has also been programme director for the PhDs in Applied Linguistics and in Education. In the late 1990s he was involved in regulating and accrediting British English language teaching qualifications across the university and private sectors. As Chair of the British Association of TESOL Qualifying Institutions, he was instrumental in setting up the then British Institute of English Language Teaching.

Throughout his career, with a clear trajectory from his undergraduate days as a student of sociology, he has been developing his thinking and writing around the relationship between the individual, culture and social structures. His long-standing relationship with Iran and the Middle East more generally has provided him with an acute awareness of the global politics which surround these relationships, and of the profound lack of Western understanding of non-Western realities despite the massive proliferation of global information and communication.

Adrian Holliday talks about his research at TESOLacademic.org


Mehri Honarbin-Holliday has been a major recent influence through the way she integrates her work as a sculptural ceramicist and video artist with ethnography of hidden cultures – demonstrated in her book, Becoming Visible in Iran. Shabnam Holliday has used a discourse approach to modern Iranian politics in her book, Defining Iran. Her co-edited collection, Political Identities and Popular Uprisings in the Middle East, ‘Explores the articulation of identity in the context of popular uprisings in the Middle East, going beyond a focus on the Arab Spring’.

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