I've just returned from a visit to a UK university where, for the last five years, I have been an external examiner on a postgraduate bridging programme for international students.

I want to write a little about this programme because I feel the changes that have happened to it recently are symptomatic of attitudes to EAP and ELT more generally.

When I joined the programme it had been in operation for four years and I was initially a member of the programme revalidation board. This brought the programme in line with university quality procedures, documenting aims and learning outcomes for all modules, and ensuring that appropriate procedures were followed for checking quality, including appointing an external examiner.

The programme offers high quality EAP teaching, with plenty of tutorial support for students. Students study academic English and learn how to do research by completing a major research project in a topic related to their degree studies. In this they are supervised by a member of staff from their discipline. This programme is an excellent preparation for students who do not have experience of the UK academic culture and prepares them well for their masters degrees. In so doing it makes the task of the lecturers teaching these degrees easier because the students are more independent and know what is expected of them.

The programme attracted large numbers of Chinese students who wanted to study postgraduate business or computer science degrees. However, since then the number of students has fallen and the demographic has changed with more students from India and Nigeria. The programme has been redesigned to meet the needs of this new customer base.

Now, however, in response to a shortfall in the university budget overall, the vice chancellor and his management team have decided to make drastic cuts in this and several related EAP programmes. Falling student numbers mean this programme is no longer making as much money for the university as it did before. It is being transferred to another faculty and 2 academic managers, 4 lecturers and several administrative support staff have been made redundant. The university is claiming, however, that these redundances are not compulsory! Some form of EAP teaching will remain but it is to be run as a support function with 1.5 teacher/managers and hourly paid staff.

Thus, the quality of the programme will inevitably be reduced but the university management team is not concerned about this. In any case, it will not become evident for a number of years when academic staff realise that the students on their masters degrees cannot cope and there is no adequate EAP programme to support them.

This situation represents the attitude to EAP programmes in many universities in the UK. While they are making money everyone is happy to align them to university norms and procedures. If they stop making money, they are vulnerable, regarded as expendable, because the monolingual English speakers who run most universities don't see the problems for international students coming to new academic cultures.

I wonder if this situation exists in other places?

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