Published on 2017/09/15
The EvoLLLution | The Positive Impact of University-Based IEPs on Home Institutions
Intensive English Language Programs do more than ESL—they provide main campuses with a mechanism to evolve successfully into truly global institutions.

In a previous article for The EvoLLLution, titled “One Size Does Not Fit All: Assessing International ESL Program Providers,” I wrote that “University-based ESL programs have that advantage of the university relationship and it’s important for the ESL program to foster and strengthen those campus relationships for the enrichment of the student experience.”

At Loyola University Chicago, our ESL program serves all international students, from those in short-term non-degree seeking, undergraduate to graduate programs, and university administrators have come to rely on our ESL program to support their international students’ academic and linguistic needs. For any university-based ESL or intensive English program (IEP), strengthening those campus relationships and offering increased programming and student services can have a positive impact on not only the IEP and the institution but even more importantly, on the overall student experience as well.

IEP directors need to demonstrate that they have a vital program and to be responsive to institutional or departmental needs. In particular, IEPs can bring some significant benefits to the table across three main segments of the lifecycle: recruitment, admissions and retention.

Recruiting: IEP As a Pathway to the Institution

The IEP can serve as a recruitment tool for the department and to help the school diversify their student population. There may be a highly qualified student who does not have the standardized test scores needed to demonstrate language proficiency. These students can enroll in the appropriate ESL courses and then learn more about university and academic culture in preparation for their future university coursework. The IEP can help in determining a student’s proficiency level and aptitude for university coursework by serving as a pathway to the university.

Upon completion of certain levels within the IEP, if students are able to matriculate to an undergraduate or graduate program at the institution, that will help the institution and schools to attract more students and to ease the students’ transition to the university.

Admissions: Providing Expertise in International Student Placement

Besides acting as a recruitment tool and pathway to the university, IEPs can better serve students and the university by being more involved with various steps of the international student experience and helping to proactively address academic concerns.

IEPs can help in the admissions process by establishing what standardized test scores should be required for direct admission and what scores would acceptable for conditional admission. If incoming students are expected to take a writing placement assessment to determine whether they can enroll in the university composition course or a developmental composition course, the IEP can help in appropriately placing those students by offering additional language testing or running the credit-bearing developmental composition courses alongside the ENGL department.

For students who need additional language testing upon arrival to the campus, the IEP can administer the test and provide recommendations and resources for students based on those results. The IEP can work with the advising office on an appropriate course plan for direct- and conditionally admitted international students in their first semester of study.

Retention: Academic and Linguistic Assistance Services

The IEP can also serve as a vital component in providing academic and linguistic assistance. Not every international student will need to enroll in an ESL class for linguistic or academic support so the IEP can assist by offering a variety of services on campus. In campus writing centers, the IEP can train tutors to work with international students and even provide ESL instructors to serve as specialists in the center. The IEP can also hold study halls or individual sessions to assist with international student and faculty concerns, such as providing feedback regarding a presentation or assistance with pronunciation. Additionally, the IEP can provide student workshops on specific language or academic skills and present at department meetings to inform faculty and staff of best practices in working with international students and providing student feedback.

Staying Nimble to Support the Global University

As an IEP director, once you’ve fostered these relationships and developed these services with various campus partners, it’s important to expand on and continuously reassess these opportunities. As student and department demands change, the IEP needs to be nimble and adaptive to meet these shifting needs. By asking ourselves, what can we do to better to serve the students and the institution, IEPs will continue to be a vital component of the university.

A viable and comprehensive ESL program can support various campus departments in their work with international students as well as support the students themselves in their overall university experience, from admission to graduation. Ultimately, the IEP not only serves in recruiting international students but also in helping to retain the student and helping them persist towards graduation. And that is one of the most important ways that IEPs can benefit the institute and support the university’s mission.

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