Science - May 13, 2004

Executive Board wants new English language tests and courses for all students

The university is to introduce three measures to improve the English skills of students here. The admissions requirements for foreign students are to be made stricter, and the same criteria will be applied to Dutch MSc applicants from outside Wageningen. In addition, all MSc entrants, including those with a Wageningen BSc, will have to take an English test at the Language Centre (CENTA) after admission.

The Executive Board has sent a proposal to the Student Council for discussion. At present only MSc applicants who do not have a Dutch BSc degree have to show that their mastery of English is sufficient. From September 2005 all master’s students, including MSc entrants from other Dutch universities and colleges, will have to fulfil the entrance requirements for language skills. The entrance requirements will also be raised to a minimum score of 550 points for each of the writing, reading and listening skills tests using the internationally recognised TOEFL test. A lower score will only be allowed if a student has an average score of at least 580 points. An equivalent score in the IELTS language test, which also includes an oral test, will also be accepted.

The five hundred European students who come to Wageningen each year through Socrates/Erasmus programmes will not have to fulfil the language requirements as they do not do a complete master’s course here, but only a few courses.

This coming academic year, all students admitted to the master’s level will have to take an English test at CENTA. Those scoring less than fifty percent of the maximum score will be advised not to start their study until their English has improved. These students will also be offered a basic course in English paid for by the university. Students with a score between fifty and sixty percent will be given two study periods’ time to improve their English.

Participation in both the test and the course will not be made compulsory however, although the study coordinators will be asked to strongly advise their students to take the test. The Executive Board estimates that there are two hundred students each year who could do with a course, a quarter of the expected enrolments for the MSc programmes. The Board has also earmarked money for a course on writing skills. The course will be given three times a year as a tryout during the coming two academic years by CENTA. After that the course will be included in the regular education curriculum of the university.

Guido van Hofwegen

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