15 Mar 2016
"We always look at how we can pitch our provision at the higher end of the scale. We only employ staff who are TEFLQ, the highest classification in the scheme, meaning that a teacher must hold an industry standard Diploma and/or a teaching related Masters degree.
Another key ingredient has been having very defined and transparent systems which are easily publishable and replicated. "The Brighton Language Institute is a bit of a microcosm – we have a little bit of academic services, a little bit of finance, a little bit of marketing and yet we also have to communicate with all the other departments in the university so having that transparency has really been key."
Patrick acknowledges the influence that Anne Boddington and Paddy Maguire have had in creating the conditions within the College of Arts and Humanities for the Language Institute to flourish. Recognition from the university has also helped enormously: ‘The university really recognizes that the Language Institute has an important central function. It knows that for international students a course with us is going to be their first experience of the university, and that’s really important.’
Finally, Patrick suggests that having a group of specialized administrative staff cannot be underestimated in the Institute’s success. “Ours pride themselves on understanding the international student experience, and they get involved in every aspect of pastoral care."
Patrick is not resting on his laurels however; he has ambitious plans for the future:
"We are thinking of developing an undergraduate version of the Extended Masters, an Extended BA, or EBA Programme as it will become known. It is worth noting that we were pioneering when we introduced the Extended Masters in the UK - a validated pre-sessional course where students come and do their English Language course plus their degree course as an unconditional student; the EBA will build on that.
"Another area of expansion is their Bespoke courses operation which is predominantly run with agents and stakeholders from different countries who want to provide specific types of English Language with academic content from other disciplines, for example language teaching methodologies for Chinese teachers and Business English courses for people from the Ivory Coast.
"We plan to look at the Bespoke courses and think about how we might want to integrate them with and into other departments, for example, I have been discussing the provision of an English Language and photography course with a stakeholder in Japan – there is certainly a market for it. I see the Bespoke courses less about being a money making enterprise and more about marketing the university; if we have a class of 41 Chinese teachers coming for 12 weeks of the year, 3 or 4 times a year to do a language and methodology course then there is great potential for all of those primary and secondary school teachers to go back and talk about their positive experiences of the university. So it is very much about marketing the university in a very positive way."
Finally Patrick plans to expand their testing services, which they deliver abroad and internally as a way of facilitating students’ entry into the university: "We went to seven countries last year but we want to grow that number."
The internalisation of university education represents huge opportunities for Brighton.
"Internationalisation has traditionally been seen by some in terms of increasing international student numbers. I see it somewhat differently; of course it is partly about that, but it is also about the way curricula of all courses as well as the learning and teaching environment are representative of and have an underlying feeling of internationalisation.
The impact on the student experience of all of this is significant: for example a student on the Extended Masters course will have a seminar series in their host department once a week during their language course, so they are embedded in their schools much earlier. This means they are able to acclimatize sooner. This also helps with retention: ‘One of the biggest challenges international students face is the cultural shift and the way our pathway courses are constructed allows for a smoother transition from language to degree that maybe other universities don’t’ allow for."
With 12 areas of strength out of a possible 14 in the accreditation of the institute, Brighton International students are certainly benefiting from Patrick and his team’s careful development of a Centre of Excellence.