Language isn’t the problem

February 19, 2015

The debate about inadequate English language proficiency often focuses on the wrong issues (“Scholars highlight inadequate language skills”, News, 5 February).
We should instead focus on how universities select their future students. We need to question how reliable are personal statements, references and formal English language test scores.
Courses that struggle with quality should consider adding a second stage to their admissions process. Much can be done with technology to allow assessments in groups: webinars, Skype conference calls and Google+ hangouts to name a few. These may not be accessible to all applicants, but they would cater for many.
Any such step would be a burden on staff time - but surely it wouldn’t be any worse than dealing with the fallout from having ill-qualified, ill-prepared students on courses.
The big risk is that enrolments might decline: more selection could lead to longer admissions processing times. And the more selective you are, the more applicants you are filtering out. But raising, say, the international English language testing system to 7.0 overall would arguably have the same effect.
Often ignored in this debate are cultural differences. If we accept international students, then we have to be prepared to accept that people come to us from different educational backgrounds and with different skills from those emphasised in the British higher education system. We should be sympathetic to the fact that engaging in discussion in a language that is not your first is tough. After all, our marketing materials tell students to choose
the UK to “improve your English” and get “valuable skills” gained from our wonderful teaching.
Antoinette Turkie
Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard