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21英语教师网 > 新闻资讯 > 国际看台 > 正文
英国高校非欧盟留学生英语能力堪忧
作者:21ST    来源:卫报    日期: 2012-09-20
  The withdrawal last month by UK immigration authorities of London Metropolitan University's (LMU) right to enrol foreign students from outside the EU sent shock waves across the higher education sector.   One reason given for the cancellation was that the English language ability of some of LMU's students did not meet the minimum set under UK Border Agency (UKBA) visa rules. Launching its legal challenge to the ban, LMU said: "The university has been conducting checks on its international students, specifically in relation to English language and educational ability, that not only meet UKBA's published requirements, but exceed those requirements in a number of areas."   But specialist English language support staff at UK universities admit that the data they currently have on the performance of foreign students studying in English as a second language is limited and inconclusive, with some claiming that institutions are failing to give adequate and targeted support.   Current UKBA rules say that universities can set their own minimum English language entry levels. The British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (Baleap) shares research and best practice among specialist, campus-based teachers of English. This year it published guidelines for universities on setting admissions levels using scores on internationally available tests of English, such as the Ielts and Toefl. Foreign student applicants who fall short of those scores can enrol on "pre-sessional" English language preparation courses to bring them up to the required level before starting full-time studies.   Bill Soden is an EAP teacher at York University and a contributor to Baleap's student tracking research project. He says pre-sessionals – usually six-to-eight weeks long –are a valuable opportunity to develop students' language and study skills, particularly for those from countries such as China where the tradition of rote learning is at odds with dynamic western academic enquiry. Most pre-sessional courses offer general support to students going into a range of disciplines. He believes they need preparation tied more closely to their chosen subjects.   Soden's recent study of an MA management course exposed the technical difficulties of measuring the performance of students who may have attended a pre-sessional or gone straight into their course with sufficient Ielts or Toefl scores. Establishing a baseline to measure students starting with a range of different assessments, he says, is highly challenging.   In response, Soden and his colleagues were able to develop a pre-sessional course that focused on skills directly related to the subject area students were going to study and brought in subject teachers. Next they were able to assess how well this more standardised cohort of up to 100 students performed. The results, he says, were promising: 30% of the high-performers at the end of the MA had been on the specialist pre-sessional course.   Soden says that making pre-sessional provision more subject-focused is something more universities should do, but he is realistic about the constraints. "In order to run these kinds of discipline-specific programmes you need to have viable cohorts. You often don't know how many students from a subject you are going to get on your EAP programme. So it is difficult to plan and to invest time in developing materials and the curriculum."   Simon Kinzley, an EAP teacher at University College London and until recently chair of the Baleap student tracking project, believes universities have a poor grasp of how their foreign students perform because the quality and quantity of research is lacking. His PhD thesis tracked Chinese students at Lancaster University. But, he says, research expertise is limited and front-line EAP staff lack the resources to track students effectively, and there is the question of their independence.   "If you do a tracking study and it doesn't demonstrate that the programmes are successful, it reflects badly on the EAP providers and the institution. Neither can afford to have negative outcomes so they are not doing the studies. It's self-preservation," Kinzley says.   Like Soden, Kinzley wants universities to provide language and study skills training that is more closely matched to degree courses. His proposal is to use the research carried out under the EU's Bologna Process, which classifies the core intellectual practices expected of students in higher education.   "The shortcut is to look at the language that runs off those intellectual practices and build a cognitive and linguistic syllabus around those criteria. That would provide us with a system of measurement. Exams such as Ielts cannot do that."



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