At the moment my university, like many others in the UK, is running a pre-sessional course for overseas students who want to study in the UK.

Pre-sessional courses are very intensive because in the space of a few months students have to improve their language level sufficiently to reach the entry requirements for university. They need to make considerable progress in this short time. The courses have to be designed to ensure that all the content is relevant for students' future needs. There is a lot of pressure on teachers who may not have much experience of teaching EAP but are pitched into a new kind of teaching and confronted with students who are desperate to show that they can cope with university studies.

Some pre-sessionals use external exams such as IELTS and TOEFL to assess students' readiness for university. Other institutions are able to set their own exams and coursework and provide a more holistic assessment of students' language and study competence.  This holistic assessment may make it easier for students to show they are ready for university studies, especially if coursework can be related to their future degrees.

Institutions are also under pressure to meet targets for numbers of overseas students, who contribute a healthy proportion of the university budget. In some cases institutions will bend the entry requirements and accept students whose language level is below the acceptable level in order to meet their quotas. This will have an impact on their success in the degree programme.

Pre-sessionals are a good way for teachers to gain experience of EAP teaching which they can use to support applications for university teaching positions. Many teachers who are working abroad come back to the UK for summer pre-sessional work. However, it is quite a challenge for a course director to meld a group of teachers who have never met before into a teaching team which can deliver a high quality pre-sessional course.

Is this kind of course replicated in your country?

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