OVER the last month, Asian Correspondent has produced a series of features looking at pathway programs across North America and the UK that provide a route to higher education for international students who might not meet the admission requirements for direct entry.

Pathway programs offer training in several fields to prepare international students for a new academic system. One element that is common to all pathway programs is English language training, which is essential for students who want to excel in a Western university.

Today, English is the official language of 54 countries and is spoken as a second language in many more. Moreover, the role of English in linking East and West cannot be overstated. Asian students with English proficiency don’t just have another language to add to their resumes, but are also given priority when it comes to employment. This has led to a surge in demand for degrees from English-language programs in Western universities, and many Asian students have gone on to successfully gain employment at leading international organisations.

Loyalist College Students

Pic: Loyalist College.

One such example is Amit Chakma, the 10th President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Ontario. Mr Chakma, who grew up in Bangladesh and was an international student himself, is now the author of more than 100 articles and a leading expert in areas related to petroleum research and energy management. He told The Globe and Mail: “I grew up in Bangladesh and left after Grade 12 to study chemical engineering in Algeria. I then moved to Vancouver as a master’s student at UBC. And that was honestly one of the best decisions I made. Those experiences really inform your understanding of the world.”

It is stories like this that inspire today’s Asian youth and mobilise them to pursue an education abroad. And while these students are often academically qualified to undertake graduate programs at Western universities, a lack of English language skills can be a real stumbling block. However, with the proper training they can not only achieve English language fluency but gain an essential grounding in the dos and don’ts of Western academic institutes.

To gain admission to a full-time degree program at North American universities, international students whose first language is not English need to demonstrate competence in the language and be able to command the required standards of speaking, listening, writing and comprehension. Students who have completed four years of education at an accredited university from countries such as Australia, Singapore, the US and the UK, where English is the primary language of instruction, need only to produce their transcripts. Students who have previously been educated in another language need to take standardised English proficiency assessments like the TOEFL and IELTS. While full-time degree programs might require an overall IELTS score of 6.5 or higher, with no subsection less than 6.0, pathway programs and specialised academic English language programs will need a lower score.

Often, international students with suitable academic merit are offered conditional admission onto degree programs and need to prove that they have sufficient English language proficiency prior to the first day of class. It is vital for these students to then begin their formal English language training, and it is more convenient to complete this training at the institute itself should it have specialised English language centers.

Pic: University of Victoria

This allows more Asian students the opportunity to study at Western universities, increase their English language proficiency, and build their confidence in an English-speaking academic environment before applying or commencing with full-time undergraduate and graduate degrees.

There are a variety of English language programs to choose from to suit all levels of proficiency. ESL centers usually provide everything from drop-in classes to one-year pre-entry programs.

Specialised English language training centres offer direction in grammar, pronunciation, conversational partners, study centres for international students to gather and socialise, language training for academic purposes, and weekly activities. Students also have the opportunity to study elective subjects while training and are able to engage in ‘real life’ language experiences to improve their communication skills.

We have compiled a list of the leading English language training centres at schools across North America:

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA – ESL

One of Canada’s leading institutes for higher education, the University of Victoria (UVic) has long been a popular study abroad destination for international students. The university provides a unique learning experience and has earned itself a global reputation for its research and teaching calibre. Of particular interest to Asian students is UVic’s focussed and expert language training. These English programs allow international students who possess the academic merit but might lack the fluency in English to pursue a degree at UVic.

Pic: University of Victoria - ESL

The university’s Department of Continuing Studies offers specialised training in a variety of programs, including English Language Programs (ESL) aimed at students learning English as a second or additional language. On completion of these programs, students can enroll in full-time undergraduate or graduate degrees at UVic. Read more here…

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA

One of the fastest growing universities in the region, the University of South Alabama (USA) is a vibrant and diverse public university with a mission to create a difference in the lives of people in the local community and across the country. The English Language Center at the university offers international students intensive English language instruction. This is the perfect programme for those who want to pursue higher education in the US or are simply keen to improve their English language skills. Students have access to conversation tutors, professional instructors, social activities and trips, as well as a University Bridge Program. The program also has a strong focus on reading skills.

LOYALIST COLLEGE

Loyalist College in Ontario is a renowned Canadian post-secondary education institute with a reputation for producing job-ready graduates. A student population of just over 3,000 and a teacher-student ratio of 1:25 ensure an intimate atmosphere and personal attention for every student. The College delivers an impressive range of full-time, part-time and online programs, catering to students from across the world. Over the past four decades Loyalist College has developed an excellent reputation among employers, with international graduates extremely competitive in the jobs market in Canada and in their home countries. Graduates also give the thumbs up to the student experience itself, with 97 per cent recommending Loyalist College to a friend.

Loyalist College

Pic: Loyalist College.

The College offers English language lessons for the benefit of students who might lack the fluency in the language. Read more here…

UNIVERSITY OF DENVER

The University of Denver’s English Language Center (ELC) is a concentrated, collegiate ESL preparation program. The ELC at this prestigious US university equips international students with skills necessary to be successful undergraduate or graduate students within the US education system. The Center offers six levels of intensive academic ESL classes along with a popular Graduate Placement Program (GPP). Students are trained in reading, composition, listening, speaking, pronunciation and grammar. Graduates from the ELC continue to successfully gain admission to undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of Denver and other US schools.

UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

Canadian institute the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is a medium-sized institution with about 15,000 full-time students. The university is the proud alma mater to significant industry leaders – U of S claims two Nobel Prize winners, one Canadian prime minister, an Oscar winner, and four Olympic gold medallists. It offers one of Canada’s best ESL programs, hosting six levels of academic English taught by experienced staff. Students can also avail of the two levels of University Preparation, and on successful completion of their programmes students gain admission to full-time university degree programs. Students at U of S studying English language courses can also benefit from the university’s free placement testing.