Implementing a university-wide credit-bearing English language enhancement programme: issues emerging from practice

Pamela Humphreys, Benjamin Fenton-Smith, Ian Walkinshaw, Rowan Michael, Ana Lobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Many nations now enrol large numbers of tertiary students with English as an additional language, raising concerns over academic literacy standards. As a result, calls for whole-institution approaches to enhance language proficiency have grown. This paper describes the issues faced by one university that attempted such an approach. We first outline three theoretical assumptions, that is, that academic literacy is facilitated by (1) the attention to discourse at the discipline-specific level, (2) the engagement of students with their social, institutional and cultural surroundings, and (3) the provision to students of the tools for self-directed, ongoing learning. The paper then explains how one Australian university implemented a mandatory programme of credit-bearing discipline-specific English language enhancement courses as foundational units across all degree programmes. Describing the first programme of its kind in Australia, the paper focuses on the issues emerging from practice identified from the first five years: (1) stakeholder perceptions, (2) student reception, (3) materials development, (4) programme management, (5) assessment and (6) measuring outcomes. Rather than a panacea for a notoriously complex issue, the paper presents strategies for dealing with the challenges that emerge for other institutions that might be contemplating reform of a similar magnitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-479
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • academic literacy
  • English as an additional language
  • English for academic purposes
  • English language enhancement
  • higher education
  • English as a medium of instruction

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