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English for academic purposes

June 27, 2006

Helping students prepare for their university course.

Hello again,
I have been looking at the statistics for overseas students in English-speaking universities. In the UK, although numbers are holding up, increasing fees could have a negative impact...

according to a report in the Language Travel Magazine , however,(http://www.hothousemedia.com/ltm/ltmbackissues/july06web/july06specreport.htm), the scope for language schools to offer academic preparation courses is steady and likely to grow.

International student intake at universities around the world has remained at a more or less constant level. In the UK, non-European Union international student enrolments into the higher education sector increased by one per cent in 2005. In Australia too, enrolments are on an upward trend .In the USA, a one per cent decrease in international enrolments in the higher education sector was seen, while in Canada in 2005 foreign student enrolments were slightly up on 2004 figures.

To prepare students for academic study in a native-English-speaking country, the course must cover academic writing skills, research skills, vocabulary building, discussion skills, presentation skills, teamwork and problem solving skills. According to Carmen Valero at the Canadian College of Educators in Toronto, ONT, attests, “There are many essential language skills that are never even touched upon in a regular ESL programme. Note-taking is probably the most crucial and least practised. International non-native English-speaking students are simply not prepared to sit through a three-hour university lecture and be able to effectively listen, decode, and take notes.”

But the overall course should also make provision for cultural preparation as well. Students will not only have to face the cultural differences of every day living, they will need to understand the different approaches to teaching and studying they will find. Learner autonomy is the key feature of western higher education and foreign students may feel they have really been thrown into the deep end and left to flounder. They will need skills in library use, time management, organization of ideas and notes and self-motivation.

What is your school doing?

Bye for now, Brenda.

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  1. Sophie Says:

    Dear Brenda,

    Thanks for the highly interesting article above. I was wondering whether you could possibly recommend any textbooks for teachers to help their students improve their discussion sills and their skills in unterstanding scientific text. I am a teacher at a German university and my students have great difficulties in understanding research papers and other academic texts which are mostly in English.

    Thank you very much for your help and support.
    Best regards,

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Without knowing more about your students it is difficult to recommend specific books. However, you might look at the materials used for preparing students to do the IELTS exams. These are designed to help students develop their overall academic comprehension skills. It would also be a good idea to encourage them to improve their general study skills: dictionary use, strategies learning new vocabulary, being able to extract key points for notes etc.

  1. christine Says:

    im a university student.still fresh and im not sure how the pressure will be. eventhough im well versed in english, im afraid of loosing my grammer on my exam paper.

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