English at UWS – An unparalleled student experience

“Staff, both academic and support, are the reason for our superb student satisfaction results. They are utterly dedicated to the students on the programmes we offer.” – Professor Donald Gillies, Dean of the School of Education, University of the West of Scotland

The richness and beauty brought into our lives by language is something we often overlook. As the fabric of the human condition, communication lies at the centre of our world, allowing us to forge meaningful relationships and appreciate the nuances of culture.

“We uniquely have the ability to communicate complex abstract ideas,” Amy Marshall writes for The Conversation.

“At first it was spoken language. Then, independently, several human cultures developed the written word – the means to communicate with others over thousands of miles or years,” she adds.

“Through language we have built civilisations, developed science and medicine, literature and philosophy. We do not have to learn everything from personal experience, because through language we can learn from the experience of others.”

But as the world interconnects and becomes increasingly global, you can rest assured that colleagues, customers and stakeholders will not always speak the same tongue…

While there are 6,500 languages spoken worldwide, none has the ability to unite and empower quite like the system of English. Known as a universal vocabulary and the global lingua franca, English is one of the most frequently-spoken languages on the planet. The number of people who have committed to mastering the tongue now exceeds 700 million. It’s the form of communication fostered by the United Nations, the European Union and many Commonwealth countries.

Those who invest in their English language fluency are free to ride the waves of global opportunity. Home to the fourth-best School of Education in the UK region, the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is the ideal place to hone your English expertise.

“In my four years here, I have identified in my colleagues’ work what I call the CORE values which help us do so well in this respect: Commitment, Openness, Responsiveness and Empathy,” says Professor Donald Gillies, Dean of the school. “As one mature student said in recent feedback, ‘School of Education staff don’t just know you by name, they know your children’s names, and engage with you at that level of interest.”

This is a teaching-led, research-informed institution that champions the student experience – domestic and international. Teachers here do everything they can to ensure students feel comfortable and accepted, providing so much more than an education by also providing a home.

“We recognise the challenges involved for international students in being away from home when studying with us, so the pastoral element is central to our work,” says Dr Margaret Allan, leader of the MEd Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

“As part of that support, for example, classes have been starting slightly later in the mornings to allow students from Asia to have time to Skype or contact family back home, as the time difference means that time of day suits best.”

For those looking to perfect their English proficiency, the BA English as a Second Language programme is the best place to start. It’s the quintessential course for non-native speakers looking to gain fluency while simultaneously broadening their prospects for global organisations. To qualify for the course, students must have a minimum of two years’ experience in the study of English at university level, and a minimum of 6.0 for an IELTS test or equivalent.

Students learn in small groups for the duration of the programme, expanding their understanding of ESL as they experience Scottish culture; with the lively hub of Glasgow set just 15 minutes away, Edinburgh merely one hour, and the castles, myths and mountains residing two hours away in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Undergraduate programme participants may opt to pursue modules relating to language and culture, including: Academic Writing, Analysing Discourse, Business English, Intercultural Citizenship and Theory and Practice of English Language Teaching.

“All the lecturers on the BA ESL are very helpful and responsible,” says Chenwei Hu.

“Every class is well prepared and they are really patient about the questions we have. And I have found the teachers here not only care about your study, but are also very happy to help you with any problems you [have] got, which is so different from China,” he adds. “The college lecturers in China will leave the class immediately. It’s not their responsibility to take care of college students. Students don’t have a lot of communication with teachers, and they never ask questions after class. So, I am very happy with the lecturers here. They are very helpful and easy to get along with.”

The TESOL programme is a professionally-facing course geared toward those who teach, or plan to teach, English to speakers of other languages within a school, college or university setting. Boasting a flexible option for those unable to accommodate a full-time schedule, the TESOL course at UWS is a programme that is sculpted to you.

To qualify for the programme, students must hold a first degree and either be a practising teacher of TESOL or intending to enter the profession. Much like the undergraduate course, you will need a minimum of 6.0 for your IELTS result or equivalent – but exceptions can be made for applicants who demonstrate significant, relevant experience together with recent study.

This programme is offered to home and international students at Paisley campus. Encompassing six modules and a dissertation, students undertake four core subjects to study which are Introduction to Language Analysis, Research Methods, The Theory and Practice of English Language Teaching, and Theories of Second Language Acquisition.

“I loved my time on the MEd TESOL at UWS,” says Julie, an international research student. “I really enjoyed meeting people from different countries and backgrounds. The international cohort was beneficial to my studies and self-development,” she concludes.

“The assessment was rigorous throughout the course, and there was a fantastic support network from all lecturers and pastorally from student services. It has helped me personally [and] in my professional life. I am more confident, informed and reflective”, Hussain El Kheteeb, from Syria, remarks.

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