Group Members

If my memory serves me correctly in this group we spent quite a lot of time discussing problems with admissions and agents. Are we getting students who are really of the level/ability that they say they are? What do the Chinese high school qualifications equate to? When we are told they are post-graduates, are they really? Do these certificates as well as IELTS certificates get forged?

Martin Millar from Oxford Brookes talked about retention and what happens to students post-foundation. He talked about the difficulties in collecting this kind of information but how useful it would be to know these things.

We talked about IELTS and how we all seem to hold on to it as a kind of universal measure while all agreeing that it was not a good test of a students academic potential. This lead to us discussing the need for some kind of standard across the universities. This would mean if a student comes to us having done a year at another Uni we can safely say they are OK to go onto a degree programme etc. We all generally agreed that performance on a foundation programme was a far better indicator of a student’s level and ability than an IELTS score. However, admissions tutors in the various academic departments are not always aware of this and still seem to see the IELTS score as a kind of magic number.

In the same vein we discussed the need for realistic expectations of entry level for undergraduates, how many of us as native speakers could formulate good concise arguments and write good essays at age 18? This naturally followed on to a discussion of the need to develop students’ critical thinking skills and the suggestion of a PIM on developing critical thinking in EAP students.

We discussed how general a foundation programme should be but also how specific in terms of content and English. No real conclusions were reached on this.

We also discussed difficulties Chinese students have and how often the lecturers in the departments are not familiar with these difficulties and how much they could help the students if these things were considered. On the other hand some cases were cited where departmental lecturers have spent a lot of time adapting their materials to suit the non-native speakers. We concluded that this varied from lecturer to lecturer and department to department but that there was a need for academic tutors to change their teaching methods and styles and for there to be closer communication between uni departments in most cases.

Carol from SOAS described their extremely well established and well structured foundation programme. She explained that that have a very strong marketing team and that in most cases overseas recruitment was done by their own staff rather than through agents.

I think that covers most of it and I do apologise if I’ve missed anything out. It was a long time ago now!

Josie Pilcher