The numerous academic preparation and foundation courses available in the UK at language schools, colleges, study centres and universities themselves offer an invaluable introduction to the study skills expected at university for many international students, and are often necessary programmes to meet entry requirements.
A number of language schools provide open pathway courses into university study. Lila, based in Liverpool, offers pre-sessional summer programmes of six or 12 weeks and a full International Academic Year course, explains Katherine Watson. “The academic part of the course focuses on skills such as writing reports, giving presentations, listening to lectures and taking notes, and attending meetings,” says Watson. “Our students have gone on to study around the country on both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees,” she adds.
The London School of English (LSE) offers English for University, “An intensive course designed for adults who need to improve their language skills specifically for university,” advises Rosie Ganne. “The majority of our students are postgraduate and so in most cases we aren’t teaching them how to write or research but how to do so in English in the UK academic style.” The courses, a minimum of four weeks long, develop all academic skills and small class sizes mean they can be tailored to individual needs. “We also work with our students on the broader skills required for a success in further education. For example, planning essays and linking ideas, extracting information from academic texts, expressing opinions and presenting ideas and arguments to a group.” Ganne acts as a student counsellor to help LSE students with their study options. “I am very proud of this part of my role and it has enabled us to establish close working links with universities all over the country,” she enthuses.
Further Education (FE) colleges also offer academic pathways and Michelle Millar informs that Bradford College has several courses for further study, including Academic English courses, pre-sessional courses, A-levels (the qualifications generally used by UK students for university entrance), Level 3 diplomas and International diploma programmes. “Our FE courses are recognised across the UK, and Level 3 courses allow students to progress onto the first year of an undergraduate degree.”
Universities will often have their own English language centres offering full progression to the university upon successful completion of preparation programmes. The University of Leeds Language Centre provide undergraduate and postgraduate pre-sessional courses. Rhiannon Prosser says that students learn UK study conventions, develops research skills, improve writing techniques and enhance study skills. “Taking a pre-sessional course also allows students to become familiar with the University of Leeds as an institution and gives them the opportunity to learn about British culture so that they feel comfortable in their new environment before their academic study begins.” Prosser believes this leads to direct results and points to the fact that international students at Leeds that have completed a pre-sessional course are twice as likely to achieve a merit for their postgraduate degree as those that haven’t.
University study centres, operated by specialist providers, are also common in the UK (see STM, November 2011, page 25). Robert Ferguson explains that Twin UK offers an International University Foundation programme at its international study centre in London (with progression to Middlesex University), Leeds Trinity University and University College Plymouth, and that these offer guaranteed entry pathways to those universities or open placement with a further range of universities that endorse Twin’s programme. Ferguson informs that although the programmes are fairly young, they have a 100 per cent rate of successful completion.
In terms of markets, Watson notes that China and Korea are key source countries for Lila’s courses, while Millar attests that Bradford College attracts a large proportion of its academic preparation students from the Middle East, and Ferguson notes West Africa, Russia, the Middle East and China as Twin UK’s main markets.