N. Murray: Standards of English in Higher Education: Issues, Challenges and Strategies

N. Murray: Standards of English in Higher Education: Issues, Challenges and Strategies Standards of English in Higher Education outlines issues and challenges of English language requirements in the drastically changing globalized world today. Murray poses questions regarding university’s English language entry standards, pre- and post-enrollment language tests, and provides potential solutions in English language regulation and provision. Raising the question of whether universities are meeting the needs of students in the social–political higher education context, Murray unpacks the related issues and tensions among students’ language competence, academic life, and university’s language standards. Chapter 1 highlights the tension between university’s education standards and its financial viability and summarizes seven key forces of the changing higher education institutions (HEI). The first force relates to the government and country’s social justice agenda that supports underrepresented and low-socioeconomic groups. However, the main purpose of this ‘widening participation’ is not intended for equal opportunity but to promote the overall economy of the country. The second and the third forces ensure that universities are not falling behind their commercial appeal. To achieve this purpose, new technology and online learning are incorporated into the curriculum; new programs are created to meet the needs of international students. The fourth force presents a common practice in English-medium universities regarding university funding which largely comes from student fees; international students who pay higher tuition fees than domestic students have become ‘cash cows’ of the university. However, at the same time, they are not receiving enough support and resources due to the limited time the faculty have available in teaching and advising them. Students are left with little support because faculty spend the majority of their time in writing grant applications and building their own research rigor and capabilities. The fifth force relates to the growing number of international students and multicultural classroom. Murray states the problems that teachers are not well equipped with intercultural knowledge. The sixth force further discusses a critical problem with supporting international students in terms of learning and college readiness. Murray argues that students nowadays are viewed as ‘consumers’ and ‘clients’ of the school. Their expectations of the university experience include both learning the intellectual work and being prepared for future employment. Murray emphasizes that universities should provide students with equal amount of quality of learning experience they deserve. Finally, Murray demonstrates that the six forces interact with one another, and because English-medium universities nowadays often act as ‘business enterprise’, compromises of equal, accessible education standards are often made to maintain its economic stability. Built upon Chapter 1, Chapter 2 provides detailed rationale for regulations in resolving the tension and suggests the ways to ensure ‘students achieve the best degree possible’ by developing quality assurance framework, providing training and professional development for administrative and academic staff, building relationship between students and teachers, balancing teaching and research, etc. Murray introduces regulations and standards in Australia and UK regarding monitoring and evaluating university’s English language proficiency (ELP). The regulation models Good Practice Principles, Thematic Enquiries, and Inspection Criteria for British Council Accreditation were presented as efforts to effectively regulate English-medium universities where international student population is high. As Chapters 1 and 2 provide the background of English language entry requirements in higher education, Chapter 3 examines the definition of ELP in the Australian context. In Chapter 3, Murray first draws from the literature on the development of ELP, namely, Hymes, Canale, and Swain’s framework of communicative competence, Bachman’s communicative language ability framework, and English as lingua franca. He then presents three noteworthy developments: English for specific purposes, basic interpersonal communicative skills versus cognitive academic language proficiency, and academic literacies. Based on the previous scholarly work, Murray proposes his tripartite model of language proficiency in measuring ELP. His model includes general proficiency, academic literacy, and professional communicative skills. This model is helpful in supporting students’ development in that it accounts for the three essential contexts that are needed for both non-English speaking background (NESB) and English speaking background (ESB) students to successfully engage in the society: everyday communication, academic disciplines, and employment. Having demonstrated how ELP is defined, Chapters 4 and 5 lay out the measures of ELP: the pre- and post-enrollment assessment practices, respectively. Drawing from documents and reports in UK and Australia, and ample validity studies on the relationship between Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Pearson Test of English (PTE), and students’ academic performance, Murray critiques the preenrolment test in lacking content validity and authenticity. He further argues that because the results from different gatekeeping tests have no clear equivalence to one another, a mix of proficiency-level students is accepted into the universities. Additionally, some universities lower their language entry score, which raises ethical and quality concerns in response to financial imperative. Test security issues with TOEFL and Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) also arise in the UK, resulting in a discontinuation of test administration with Educational Testing Services. With various challenges regarding preenrollment assessment discussed in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 provides both advantages and disadvantages of the post-enrollment language assessment (PELA). Murray believes that PELA is beneficial; however, it is not mandatory, and many universities in Australia do not use it because of its enrollment concerns, problems with face validity, the target population of PELA, forms of the test, specific skills to assess, and test security also surface. Murray did a comprehensive illustration of the different issues and provides his stand and suggestions in using PELA. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 provide suggestions and potential implementation of English language provision to overcome the challenges demonstrated from the previous chapters. Chapter 6 centers around universities’ English language provisions. Murray proposed moving from centralized provision to a decentralized model of management where senior managers, directors, and faculty members work with the local participants, such as English language tutors and part-time English teaching staff, to develop knowledge of specific academic disciplines. Murray illustrates the ways to embed academic literacies in curriculum and how funding sources play an intricate role in the model of provision. Chapter 7 accounts for the conditions and developmental needs for the innovation of provision. Based on his tripartite conceptualization of ELP, Murray discusses the essential elements to secure institution approval, the ways to negotiate, navigate through HEI, and the measures to make innovation succeed. In Chapter 8, Murray demonstrates a case study example in Australia where the initiative was implemented. He warns that resistance and compromises are likely to occur during the change, but he believes that such change will lead to a better university system in supporting both NESB and ESB students. The book follows a progressive and logical order that uncovers the complex layers of HEI today. Each chapter is an independent part but closely related, thus forming a robust integrated unit. Through the eight chapters, Murray critically evaluates the English language issues and details the constraints and tensions of the English language requirements. More importantly, he proposes potential effective model, regulations, and provisions to be implemented for enhancing student life and institutional success. It is important to note that while the book draws from research work, news, and studies from an international lens, including countries like New Zealand, Canada, and the USA, its primary context and audience, though not articulated explicitly, seems to be Australia and UK. While it is important to keep in mind the specific context that the book is based upon, its content on assessment standards is very relevant in higher educational context today. The challenges and proposals presented can serve as valuable guiding sources to English-medium universities across the world. The book highlights the interconnectedness of the key trends of the 21st century social cultural political environment and is especially beneficial to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who are interested in English language assessment, university program evaluation, and institutional change and innovation. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Oxford University Press

N. Murray: Standards of English in Higher Education: Issues, Challenges and Strategies

Applied Linguistics , Volume Advance Article – Jun 2, 2018

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0142-6001
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1477-450X
D.O.I.
10.1093/applin/amy025
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Abstract

Standards of English in Higher Education outlines issues and challenges of English language requirements in the drastically changing globalized world today. Murray poses questions regarding university’s English language entry standards, pre- and post-enrollment language tests, and provides potential solutions in English language regulation and provision. Raising the question of whether universities are meeting the needs of students in the social–political higher education context, Murray unpacks the related issues and tensions among students’ language competence, academic life, and university’s language standards. Chapter 1 highlights the tension between university’s education standards and its financial viability and summarizes seven key forces of the changing higher education institutions (HEI). The first force relates to the government and country’s social justice agenda that supports underrepresented and low-socioeconomic groups. However, the main purpose of this ‘widening participation’ is not intended for equal opportunity but to promote the overall economy of the country. The second and the third forces ensure that universities are not falling behind their commercial appeal. To achieve this purpose, new technology and online learning are incorporated into the curriculum; new programs are created to meet the needs of international students. The fourth force presents a common practice in English-medium universities regarding university funding which largely comes from student fees; international students who pay higher tuition fees than domestic students have become ‘cash cows’ of the university. However, at the same time, they are not receiving enough support and resources due to the limited time the faculty have available in teaching and advising them. Students are left with little support because faculty spend the majority of their time in writing grant applications and building their own research rigor and capabilities. The fifth force relates to the growing number of international students and multicultural classroom. Murray states the problems that teachers are not well equipped with intercultural knowledge. The sixth force further discusses a critical problem with supporting international students in terms of learning and college readiness. Murray argues that students nowadays are viewed as ‘consumers’ and ‘clients’ of the school. Their expectations of the university experience include both learning the intellectual work and being prepared for future employment. Murray emphasizes that universities should provide students with equal amount of quality of learning experience they deserve. Finally, Murray demonstrates that the six forces interact with one another, and because English-medium universities nowadays often act as ‘business enterprise’, compromises of equal, accessible education standards are often made to maintain its economic stability. Built upon Chapter 1, Chapter 2 provides detailed rationale for regulations in resolving the tension and suggests the ways to ensure ‘students achieve the best degree possible’ by developing quality assurance framework, providing training and professional development for administrative and academic staff, building relationship between students and teachers, balancing teaching and research, etc. Murray introduces regulations and standards in Australia and UK regarding monitoring and evaluating university’s English language proficiency (ELP). The regulation models Good Practice Principles, Thematic Enquiries, and Inspection Criteria for British Council Accreditation were presented as efforts to effectively regulate English-medium universities where international student population is high. As Chapters 1 and 2 provide the background of English language entry requirements in higher education, Chapter 3 examines the definition of ELP in the Australian context. In Chapter 3, Murray first draws from the literature on the development of ELP, namely, Hymes, Canale, and Swain’s framework of communicative competence, Bachman’s communicative language ability framework, and English as lingua franca. He then presents three noteworthy developments: English for specific purposes, basic interpersonal communicative skills versus cognitive academic language proficiency, and academic literacies. Based on the previous scholarly work, Murray proposes his tripartite model of language proficiency in measuring ELP. His model includes general proficiency, academic literacy, and professional communicative skills. This model is helpful in supporting students’ development in that it accounts for the three essential contexts that are needed for both non-English speaking background (NESB) and English speaking background (ESB) students to successfully engage in the society: everyday communication, academic disciplines, and employment. Having demonstrated how ELP is defined, Chapters 4 and 5 lay out the measures of ELP: the pre- and post-enrollment assessment practices, respectively. Drawing from documents and reports in UK and Australia, and ample validity studies on the relationship between Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Pearson Test of English (PTE), and students’ academic performance, Murray critiques the preenrolment test in lacking content validity and authenticity. He further argues that because the results from different gatekeeping tests have no clear equivalence to one another, a mix of proficiency-level students is accepted into the universities. Additionally, some universities lower their language entry score, which raises ethical and quality concerns in response to financial imperative. Test security issues with TOEFL and Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) also arise in the UK, resulting in a discontinuation of test administration with Educational Testing Services. With various challenges regarding preenrollment assessment discussed in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 provides both advantages and disadvantages of the post-enrollment language assessment (PELA). Murray believes that PELA is beneficial; however, it is not mandatory, and many universities in Australia do not use it because of its enrollment concerns, problems with face validity, the target population of PELA, forms of the test, specific skills to assess, and test security also surface. Murray did a comprehensive illustration of the different issues and provides his stand and suggestions in using PELA. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 provide suggestions and potential implementation of English language provision to overcome the challenges demonstrated from the previous chapters. Chapter 6 centers around universities’ English language provisions. Murray proposed moving from centralized provision to a decentralized model of management where senior managers, directors, and faculty members work with the local participants, such as English language tutors and part-time English teaching staff, to develop knowledge of specific academic disciplines. Murray illustrates the ways to embed academic literacies in curriculum and how funding sources play an intricate role in the model of provision. Chapter 7 accounts for the conditions and developmental needs for the innovation of provision. Based on his tripartite conceptualization of ELP, Murray discusses the essential elements to secure institution approval, the ways to negotiate, navigate through HEI, and the measures to make innovation succeed. In Chapter 8, Murray demonstrates a case study example in Australia where the initiative was implemented. He warns that resistance and compromises are likely to occur during the change, but he believes that such change will lead to a better university system in supporting both NESB and ESB students. The book follows a progressive and logical order that uncovers the complex layers of HEI today. Each chapter is an independent part but closely related, thus forming a robust integrated unit. Through the eight chapters, Murray critically evaluates the English language issues and details the constraints and tensions of the English language requirements. More importantly, he proposes potential effective model, regulations, and provisions to be implemented for enhancing student life and institutional success. It is important to note that while the book draws from research work, news, and studies from an international lens, including countries like New Zealand, Canada, and the USA, its primary context and audience, though not articulated explicitly, seems to be Australia and UK. While it is important to keep in mind the specific context that the book is based upon, its content on assessment standards is very relevant in higher educational context today. The challenges and proposals presented can serve as valuable guiding sources to English-medium universities across the world. The book highlights the interconnectedness of the key trends of the 21st century social cultural political environment and is especially beneficial to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who are interested in English language assessment, university program evaluation, and institutional change and innovation. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Jun 2, 2018

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