Zayed University students to spend longer on remedial English courses

Students at the university will also improve their subject-specific vocabularies to better prepare them for coursework in English.

Students work on their remedial English course last year at Zayed University in Dubai. Jeff Topping/The National
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DUBAI // New students at Zayed University will spend longer learning the basics of English, and then be taught a vocabulary more suited to popular courses.

The university has announced the move to better prepare students for degree studies after Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the university's president and Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, last year called for reforms to the remedial programme.

Only one student in 10 leaves school with the maths and English skills they need to start a degree course. The rest have to take remedial classes for up to two years.

One in five (18 per cent) of these remedial students drops out in the first year, because they are failing the course, or often because they have been offered a job in the police or army.

This year Sheikh Nahyan asked the university's provost, Dr Larry Wilson, to review and strengthen the courses.

The minister said students should continue to learn English even after they had passed the exams allowing them to start their degree proper.

Dr Wilson called on the university to "expand the measurement of student language proficiency in the upper years", and ensure that every graduate "is proficient in both written and oral Arabic and English".

The most basic remedial course, for those with the weakest English, will be slowed down, giving them more time to cover the fundamentals before moving on. This course will be taught over 12 weeks, three weeks longer than before.

After that, the second year will be accelerated, "to get them ready as quickly as possible", says Troy Priest, who oversees the remedial curriculum.

Pass rates for the courses already look to be improving since the first changes were introduced last year. Wayne Jones, head of the remedial programme, says there have already been "enormous improvements over the last year".

From next term, the course will include more English for maths, to help the majority of students who go on to degrees such as business.

"Right now the concepts mainly focus on things such as adding and subtracting in English," said Mr Priest. "In time this will expand."

Bryan Gilroy, the university's vice provost, said new courses such as logistics require their own vocabulary.

"Everyone should have a basic understanding of maths," Mr Gilroy said. "If the students don't have these skills, they won't meet the entry requirements for the degrees they want, which limits their choices."