Students' academic skills in the language of instruction need to be at a CEFR C1 level by the end of their Bachelor studies. Since their entry language level is often well below C1, some students, however, struggle throughout their programme, usually leading to study delay or even dropping out. This matter is exacerbated when they enter into their thesis-writing stage, as their lack of linguistic flexibility results in major difficulties while producing academic-style papers. Lecturers, as a result, may either decide to focus solely on content and ignore blatant language issues or spend additional time editing language, which is often not part of their core expertise.
At the University of Groningen, many programmes recognise this concern and are dealing with it in different manners at various stages. For instance, English tuition at the Faculties of Law and Economics and Business Economics, which had historically been provided in the form of very effective —but costly— year-long credit-bearing courses, has currently been condensed to a single block. Other faculties have shifted towards assessing first-year students' language proficiency, either English or Dutch, yet a structural follow-up is lacking. Even though they are aware of these linguistic hurdles, not all faculties can or are willing to organise additional language feedback and support.
This presentation will outline the different approaches some faculties have taken, analyse and compare the results obtained, and put forward a plan to tackle these concerns and obstacles. We propose giving continual formative feedback on students' academic writing and language skills at the start of the Bachelor programme (Dutch or English) and timely access to the support students need. As a result, students will become aware of their language deficiencies and, in turn, receive guidance on how they should remedy these by means of courses, workshops or self-study. In the following years, they will continually receive feedback and support, ensuring they are well equipped to write adequate academic papers. Faculties, likewise, will receive assistance in the assessment, feedback and support process. Content teachers, for example, will be trained to neither give extensive language feedback nor ignore language issues but rather simply return the assignment to the student with an insufficient for language use. In the end, we aim to pursue a university-wide and systematic approach to maximise student success, enabling them to reach the minimum C1 level required to both successfully write their thesis and pursue a Master's programme.
El nivel de la lengua de instrucción de los estudiantes de la Universidad de Groninga al iniciar sus estudios universitarios varía entre el B1 y el C1 del MCER, lo que conlleva a que una parte del alumnado tenga muchas dificultades durante sus estudios. En esta presentación describiremos algunos de los enfoques adoptados por ciertas facultades de esta universidad con la finalidad de ayudar a sus estudiantes, tanto holandeses como internacionales, a obtener o consolidar el nivel académico C1 para así poder escribir una tesis de grado adecuada. Asimismo, compararemos los resultados obtenidos en dichas facultades, como así también nos referiremos a los obstáculos a vencer y las preocupaciones restantes con el propósito de implementar, en definitiva, una estrategia institucional que aborde este problema lingüístico.
Ruben Comadina Granson is a senior lecturer in English and Spanish at the University of Groningen Language Centre, involved in the development and provision of communicative language courses in several internationally-oriented programmes in Higher Education. He has extensive experience in designing blended-learning courses, organising learner-centred, multi-level group work for Higher Education and creating intercultural awareness among participants.
Estelle Meima has been working at the University of Groningen Language Centre since 2006. She is a senior lecturer in English and coordinator of Language Testing and Assessment. In 2014, she was involved in writing the new Language and Culture Policy for the university and participated in its implementation. She is currently a Board Member of the European Language Council.