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Curtin empowers students with new online English language assessment tool

Media release

C187/08

1 July 2008

In a first for Australia’s university sector, Curtin University of Technology will meet the needs of international and domestic students by offering UniEnglish, an online tool that allows students to self-assess their English language strengths when they arrive to study.

New students whose first language is not English can log into the unique web-based program to assess their English language proficiency and determine their own need for English language support.  UniEnglish will go live on 14 July 2008.

Associate Professor Katie Dunworth is the developer and co-ordinator of UniEnglish and stresses that students assess themselves voluntarily.

“It is important to treat students like adults and empower them to take responsibility for their own learning,” Associate Professor Dunworth said.

“UniEnglish is a resource for students using English as an additional language and aims to help them achieve their English language proficiency goals. Once students are identified through the program as needing assistance we have a suite of support options open to them.”

“UniEnglish is not a test, and no record of the result will appear on a student’s academic transcript. This ensures students are not threatened by an English language weakness showing up on their academic record.”

Undergraduate, postgraduate, first or final year of study, international or local, all students who do not have English as their first language are encouraged to complete the online assessment which consists of three sections.

“Units in English/Reading, Listening and Writing comprise the three components of the online tool.  Students can choose to complete all three sections or just one or two.  Most tasks take only a few minutes to complete,” Associate Professor Dunworth said.

An additional self-evaluation tool is based on a series of ‘can-do’ statements which can assist students to plan their own language development strategy.   Those students identified as requiring support will be contacted and invited to participate in one of the available support programs.

UniEnglish was introduced following feedback from staff and students, including the results of a survey by Curtin’s English Language Competency Working Party (ELCWP), which involved interviewing 187 students in Semester 2, 2007. The instrument itself was rigorously evaluated through a pilot conducted in the first semester of this year.

Miss Collette Swindells, President of Curtin Student Guild, is a member of the ELCWP and noted their main recommendations.

“The Working Party expressed a concern regarding the availability of English proficiency resources to students from a non-English speaking background.  Fewer than 50 percent of domestic students who expressed difficulties with writing were aware of the resources available to them at Curtin,” Miss Swindells said.

“UniEnglish will identify students needing support and help them plan their language development strategies during the semester.”
Contact:  Katie Dunworth, UniEnglish Co-ordinator, 08 9266 4227, k.dunworth@curtin.edu.au or Lisa Mayer, PR Coordinator, Curtin, 08 9266 1930, 0401 103 755 l.mayer@curtin.edu.au

CRICOS provider code: 00301J

Modified: 1 July 2008