Dom Hebblethwaite interviews Helen Beech (pictured left) and Angela Xia from Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University.
To watch a short clip of the interview, you can scroll down to the bottom of this Q&A article for the link to the video.
Helen and Angela it’s very nice to have you here to talk about Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the language programmes you have and find out more about your experiences with the CIOL RVC scheme.
Would you first like to introduce yourselves and explain your roles?
I’m Helen Beech, currently the interim dean for the School of Languages at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU).
I oversee the English language centre, as well as the Modern languages centre which teaches other languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish.
And I’m Angela Xia, my background is in Applied Linguistics and intercultural communication. This is my eighth year at XJTLU and I’m currently the Director of the English Language Centre (ELC).
Wonderful, can you explain to those who may not be familiar the background to how XJTLU was set up and the Language Centre’s role in the University?
XJTLU was created from a partnership between the existing institutions of Xi'an Jiaotong University, which is based in Xi’an, China, and the University of Liverpool, obviously based in the UK.
Our university was established in 2006, and it became the first full partnership between a Chinese and a UK university to be awarded approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education.
As XJTLU is an English medium of instruction (EMI) institution, the Language Centre was set up in the same year that the University was established and about two years ago it was split into the English Language Centre, ELC, and the Modern Languages Centre (MLC).
The ELC now has about 200 staff members and we are very proud to be the largest academic unit at the university.
Wow, that is an enormous department! I’m pretty sure this is the biggest language department that CIOL has worked with or come across!
Yes! We also believe we are unique in the sense that we teach every student admitted to this university. So whether a student is admitted via Gaokao, the national entrance exam, via direct entry, whether the student is an undergraduate, or postgraduate, at some point of their journey at XJTLU they will be taught by the English Language Centre teachers.
So in comparison with the other Chinese universities, because we on an EMI institution we teach way more English language classes.
But, compared with the other UK institutions, we offer credit bearing compulsory EAP modules in both Year One and Year Two, which makes us quite unique in this sense.
We divide our students into what we call Core and Advanced pathways.
For core students in Year One, out of the typical 50 credits, 20 credits across the year come from ELC. That means, approximately nine hours of EAP tuition per week, both in Semester One and Semester Two.
For advanced students, they are doing 10 credits in Year One, that's typically four hours per week throughout the semester.
In Year One of our Undergraduate English language provision we take more of an English for general Academic purposes approach, so we focus on the core academic skills.
When students progress to Year Two, they also need to take 10 credits of EAP provision throughout Year Two and students are then subdivided into EAP classes based on the schooling of their major.
For example in Year Two, we have EAP for science, EAP for business, EAP for math, so on and so forth. So we take more of an English for specific academic purposes approach in Year two.
Our target exit level at the end of our Year One, undergraduate programme, is around B2 and then by the end of Year Two all students must demonstrate B2 plus proficiency, that's crucial for those students that do our 2+2 programme and go on to study at University of Liverpool, because of UKVI Visa requirements.
For post graduates we offer our pre sessional course in the summer.
That typically runs for seven or eight weeks, and the aim of the Pre-Sessional English course is to bring students up to the entry requirements for our postgraduate programmes.
We aim during the pre-sessional to raise students’ English language proficiency by about point five or one IELTS band.
The overarching aim of the English Language Centre is to better prepare students for study within an English medium institution so providing them
not only with the academic skills that they need to succeed, but also the English language proficiency, so that they can be successful on their degree programs and engage with their subject content.
Could you explain how you came about finding out about CIOL and the RVC scheme, what was it that that led you towards the scheme?
We actually had a direct referral from a colleague of ours in the international business school here at XJTLU, it was Douglas Shearer who introduced us. That's something that’s great about this working here with XJTLU, we have such collaboration between schools.
We saw synergies immediately between what we do and what you do and that immediately attracted us to the RVC scheme as we realised that it would be a very good fit for us.
The Chartered Institute of Linguists is a national and international body and a lot of CIOL’s values align with our values.
As well as enhancing and promoting the value of language and language skills, we also consider one of our graduate attributes here at XJTLU to be multilingualism.
We also see it as an opportunity by aligning our programmes with the UK’s chartered body for linguists. It’s prestigious recognition for us and it can also add and increase our credibility as an institution and as a Language Centre.
How did you find the process with RVC, what went well or maybe not so well in the process?
I found the application forms to be very well designed and the whole process was managed in a straightforward manner.
I'm very grateful for the help and support from CIOL which was always provided in a timely manner.
It was great, the RVC scheme is quite flexible, CIOL have created a situation where multiple different language programmes with very different offerings can still obtain recognition via your scheme.
I think having that flexibility is also a great selling point of RVC.
So it didn’t feel like we were trying to force XJTLU’s programmes to fit to CIOL, there is that flexibility within the scheme.
Going through the application process, taking a step back and looking holistically at our provision has also helped us to make judgments about our module offerings and we're actually even considering adding a third pathway within our year one provision, one that's catered more to the lower level learners upon entry to XJTLU.
So while these ideas were already percolating prior to this, going through the application process and talking more in depth about our year one provision helped, it's always good to take a step back!
How has the CIOL RVC approval has been viewed internally within XJTLU?
We were so excited we've shared this widely! It’s thanks to all the members of the School of Languages and their hard work and dedication that were able to obtain this recognition.
The module leaders have been developing the curriculum and assessments and actually teaching our students, so we are grateful to them and the news of the recognition reached our executive president who also sent his immediate congratulations
CIOL is a very prestigious institution, and we’re been very impressed by the professionalism of CIOL members of staff.
Would there be an interest in the future in working with the Chartered Institute of linguists on other themes and other language related issues?
Absolutely, we very much look forward to networking and collaboration opportunities with other accredited institutions, I noticed from the website there were quite a few in China that have recently been accredited, so it will be great if we got a chance to talk to the other institutions, because I think it's a small world for linguists.
There are quite a lot of EMI institutions in China now but perhaps we don't communicate necessarily that much between each other.
If the Chartered Institute of Linguists can act as a bridge between language programmes, maybe it's a way to help to connect us a little bit more with each other if we have this shared accreditation.
Watch a short clip of this interview on our YouTube channel. Click the image below