English language entry pathways: Innovations, outcomes and future directions

While international students have been breathing financial ‘life blood’ into Australian universities, English language professionals have been striving to improve the English language preparation of these students for tertiary study. One crucial step towards higher quality in the English language (EL) pathways sector was the publication of the Australian Government’s ‘Good Practice Principles for English language proficiency for International students’ by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (2009). The most relevant principle, the fourth, recommends that:

Universities ensure that the English language pathways they approve for the admission of students enable these students to participate effectively in their studies (Australian Universities Quality Agency, 2009, p.4).

In the Agency’s report, various avenues are suggested to improve the preparation of international students for university, including that universities explore diverse means of monitoring student readiness and communicate with pathways providers. So, in the wake of Principle 4, what innovations have occurred in the English language entry pathway sector? What outcomes have these pathways achieved? What are their future directions?

To try to answer these questions, we would very much like to invite you to a symposium on English language entry pathways to be held at the University of Sydney on Thursday 9 June 2011. This AALL-sponsored symposium aims to bring together people who have a pre-entry or post-entry connection with English language entry pathways. If you teach in or administer a preparatory college or centre, if you work with international students once they’ve entered university, if you’re conducting research on pathways or if you’re concerned that international students require more support, this event is an opportunity to contribute towards the agenda for Australian EL pathways.

The symposium will explore the directions and effectiveness of EL pathways by setting the policy context and showcasing research projects:

• Alex Barthel (AALL), one of the key speakers, will open the day with a sketch of the ‘big picture’: the origins, impact and future directions of Good Practice Principle 4 on ‘prospective students and entry standards’.
• Janet Jones (Sydney), another of the key speakers and investigator on a study of a University of Sydney pathway, will focus on the written outcomes of postgraduate international students and the role of the MASUS procedure in assessing writing.
• Lindy Woodrow (Sydney), researcher on a research project into another University of Sydney pathway, will highlight the preparation of undergraduate students.
• Bronwen Dyson (Sydney), the author of a recent report on a University of Sydney pathway, will explore the student experience in EL pathways: from perceptions of preparation to final academic results.

Although research at the University of Sydney is our starting point, we are extremely interested in hearing about other research on EL pathways and including it in the program. We invite colleagues who would like to present on the day to submit an Expression of Interest by 24 March 2011. Please send an abstract (maximum 250 words) to Bronwen Dyson at the following address bronwen.dyson@sydney.edu.au.

Contact Karlo Jurasovic (karlo.jurasovic@sydney.edu.au) for any enquiries regarding the event.

In order to maximize participation, the organizers of the following two AALL meetings have timetabled them on adjoining days:

• 9 June 2011: English language entry pathways: Innovations, outcomes and future directions at the University of Sydney
• 10 June 2011: Critical Discussions about Social Inclusion Forum at the University of Wollongong on Friday

Bronwen Dyson (Sydney); Helen Drury (Sydney)