The English Language Centre at the University of New England has received official praise for its professional management, sound operational systems, and “evident concern to offer a quality educational experience for international students”.
This praise came in a letter to the Centre’s Director, Dr Vernon Crew, from the management of the National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme (NEAS). It followed a formal visit to the centre by a NEAS auditor.
The letter, summarising the auditor’s report, said the Centre had been “assessed as meeting NEAS Standards and Criteria in all respects”. It said the report had noted, as “particular areas of strength”, the Centre’s “highly qualified teaching staff”, “dedicated and competent student support staff”, “particular focus on student welfare”, and “wide range of resources”. It added that the Centre was “well supported by the University and its facilities”.
“It was pleasing at the conclusion of the visit to be informed by the auditor that NEAS considers the ELC to be one of the best ELICOS (i.e., ‘English language intensive courses for overseas students’) centres in NSW, and that we have teachers with the best qualifications in the State,” Dr Crew said. He added that the excellent report was “a tribute to the Centre’s Deputy Director of Studies, Mark Cooper, and his staff”.
Mr Cooper explained that the Centre’s newly re-written English language programs – all 2,125 teaching hours of them – had been accredited earlier in the year. The recent audit, he said, had included inspections of all teaching areas and materials, and student facilities and services. The auditor had been impressed, he said, by the fact that all the Centre’s teachers had postgraduate degrees as Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
In explaining the report’s praise for the overall educational experience offered by the Centre and its “focus on student welfare”, Mr Cooper mentioned the Centre’s effective early-intervention strategies for struggling students. He added that the “personalised approach” of the teaching staff towards the students was something that all the students highlighted in their end-of-course feedback. “Both students and staff regard themselves as part of a big family,” he said.
The English Language Centre has had to adapt to large-scale changes over the past few years. At the time of its last NEAS audit in 2004, student numbers averaged around 30-40 a year, while the annual average today is about 130. “We’ve not only managed to cope with this sudden increase, but have also emerged with an exemplary report,” Dr Crew said.
There are several reasons for this growth in student numbers. One is the Centre’s growing reputation beyond UNE: “Students are switching universities to come here,” Mr Cooper said. Another is the Centre’s widening global reach: for example, there are 60 students from Saudi Arabia this year, whereas four years ago there were none.
“Our student base was – traditionally – South-east Asian,” Dr Crew said. “Students from the Gulf are coming from a very different culture, and our staff members have had to be trained in meeting their particular needs.
“The Centre had to come a long way very quickly – and it’s done that. It’s great to have Australia’s peak accreditation body recognise our achievement.”
The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, said: “This is an outstanding achievement for all the staff of the ELC and for Dr Crew and Mark Cooper in particular. It is always pleasing to receive outside recognition of the wonderful contribution that staff make to developing the lives of our students and to improving the standing of the University. We are all very proud of their efforts.”
THE PHOTOGRAPH of ELC student Ahmed Alismail displayed here expands to include Dr Vernon Crew (left) and Mark Cooper.