Higher education institutions must support the English language development of students with a non-English language speaking background to ensure that they graduate with the English language skills required for society and the workplace, according to Professor Sophie Arkoudis, Dr Chi Baik and Dr Sarah Richardson, the authors of English Language Standards in Higher Education: From entry to exit, a new book from ACER Press.
‘The issue of English language learning outcomes of graduates will increasingly challenge universities as the sector expands and broadens participation within a demand-driven system,’ said Professor Arkoudis.
‘English language acquisition is central to academic success, and to the success of graduates in the workplace, and this requires continuous and systematic development,’ she said.
‘Universities have a responsibility to ensure the English language proficiency of students is not only present at the time of entry, but upheld and enhanced throughout their tertiary studies.’
Globalisation has had a monumental impact on the diversity of the higher education student population. Australian government figures show that there were more that 378 000 full-fee-paying international students in the country last year, contributing $15.7 billion to the Australian economy. Many international students do not have English as their first language.
However, English language proficiency is not only an issue for many international students. It also concerns domestic students who have English as an additional language, and the numerous higher education institutions in non-English-speaking countries that now choose to offer education in English. Leaders and educators in all higher education institutions need to get serious about the English language learning outcomes of their graduates.
According to Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, in his Foreword to the book, ‘(English language proficiency) is a key issue that teachers and their institutions must address, one that is integral to standards in tertiary education, and affects domestic as well as international students.’ A second key issue, according to Marginson, concerns the work readiness of international as well as domestic graduates, particularly in terms of English language proficiency. As Marginson notes in the Foreword, ‘The plain fact is that higher education institutions have been unable to make (English language proficiency) a priority.’
English Language Standards in Higher Education suggests that all graduates should be operating at professional levels of English language competence. As Dr Sarah Richardson noted, ‘This outcome will not be obtained without coherent institutional policies and it is important that methods to improve English language skills are built into all curricula and assessment requirements in higher education for the benefit of all students for whom English is an additional language.’
English Language Standards in Higher Education is designed as a resource to support lecturers, language policymakers, researchers and senior administrators to develop students’ English language proficiency. It outlines practical approaches for the classroom, as well as frameworks for pedagogical planning at an institutional level.