DISCUSSION GROUP NOTES (Room GS4)

1. Nearly everyone present admits with 5.0 IELTS or equivalent, although some institutions admitted on the basis of 4.5, and one 5.5 (with a 6.0 in writing). We discussed whether it was possible/desirable for students to enter in the second term. Two replied it was possible, if the students had better entry qualifications. One respondent claimed that those who enter in Semester B do not do as well in general, and there was some agreement with this. Most institutions re-test students when they arrive, as there was general agreement that IELTS scores, particularly from China, are unreliable at the moment.

One University had stopped offering TOEFL as an entrance qualification. When asked how they deal with the Japanese market where IELTS is virtually unknown, the response was that if students want to come badly enough, they will find a way to take the IELTS test. There was discussion whether it was necessary to use the academic test, or might the general IELTS test be equally appropriate. Four people were IELTS examiners and said there was a substantial difference between the two and they would recommend the academic test only.

Nearly all institutions use agents, and in one case, these agents are employees of the university. A general warning was sounded that even qualifications that come via an agent can be falsified. However, it was one opinion that if students know ahead of time that they’ll be examined on arrival, they are less likely to falsify documents.

Some universities take A-levels into the Foundation Course, but no one takes failed A-levels. It was one university’s experience that where their previous year’s pass rate was abysmal, the research showed that all those who had failed the Foundation Course were failed A-level candidates.

Some respondents reported the phenomenon of ‘Foundation Hoppers’; these are students who have failed one, two, or three Foundation Courses, but keep repeating them elsewhere. One respondent said that if a student applied who had attended a previous Course elsewhere, she would contact the original institution before admitting.

Nearly all Foundation Course representatives said that they had between 50% - 100% Chinese participation. Most respondents said that they had both post-graduate and undergraduate options.

2. Integration vs separation was discussed in relation to:

Several universities reported that language work is front-loaded, with the subject courses being introduced later—sometimes as late as Semester 2. It was generally agreed that this was not the preferred option. One university integrates subject and language teaching to the extent that a language teacher accompanies students to the lectures in a subject, and all the reading/writing work is genre-related, as it is based on the subject content of that course. In addition, two separate modules exist in ‘Academic English’ and ‘Research Methods’ which are free-standing.

3. Plagiarism was addressed. One innovative response was that after students submit an essay, they have to do a timed writing on the same subject of their assignment. This timed essay is not assessed, but is there if the teacher suspects plagiarism. Students can only get a grade for their assignment by taking the timed test.

4. Other: One university had positive experiences with progress reports. They send them to parents and agents twice a year, and once they started doing so, there found noticeable difference in students’ commitment to the course. Some respondents reported that there was a mechanism in place whereby students who were failing half-way through the year were advised to leave the course.

Nancy Gaffield

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