QBridge reaches out internationally

New program will give foreign students a second chance at English language courses

School of English professor Elaine Armstrong says she thinks this program will attract more international students.
School of English professor Elaine Armstrong says she thinks this program will attract more international students.

A new pilot program beginning in 2010 will give students who fail to meet Queen’s English-language requirements for admission a second chance to be accepted to the University.

QBridge, set to launch in the summer of 2010, will give students whose first language isn’t English and who received a poor mark on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) conditional acceptance to the University based on their participation in a 10 or 11-week summer English course before their undergraduate studies begin.

Students who successfully complete the course with a mark of at least 75 per cent will be granted full acceptance to Queen’s, University Registrar Joanne Brady said.

QBridge will be administered through the School of English and condenses the school’s 12-week course, 150 – University Preparation, into a summer session.

Brady said students who don’t achieve at least 75 per cent in QBridge won’t be admitted to the University but can apply again the next year.

The University is looking to enroll 20 to 30 students a year during the program’s three-year pilot, Brady said. The program was created by Matthew Reesor, the University’s international programs manager.

Reesor said the idea for the program came from a recruitment trip he took with other professors to China in 2006.

“We were asking teachers to prepare their students for regimented academics, but we were also asking students to achieve bilingualism by the time they were 16 or 17 years old,” he said. “Having to achieve those two things was not the easiest thing for those students to do.”

Reesor collaborated with English professor Elaine Armstrong to put together a proposal for the QBridge program.

Armstrong said normally when ESL students arrive at Queen’s, they’re given a placement test and put into one of six levels ranging from a basic level of proficiency to a high level of proficiency in English.

QBridge students would be placed in the 150-level course, the highest level, and could use their mark from the course in lieu of a low TOEFL score.

Armstrong said before the QBridge program, a student who does poorly on the TOEFL simply has to take it again.

“Queen’s requires a score of 88 on the Internet-based TOEFL test. However, if a student has more than 80 but less than 88 and exceedingly high academic qualifications, they may enter the QBridge program and the registrar is willing to wait until the end of August for their English requirements,” she said, adding that requirements normally need to be satisfied by the end of April for a student to be considered for admission in the fall.

Armstrong said she thinks this program will attract more international students.

“There are a lot of students who have a very high academic standing but who are missing that one key element,” she said. “We didn’t want to lose those students to another university.”

Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia has offered an English bridging program since 1998, SFU English Bridge Program Co-ordinator Sarah Fleming said.

The program runs 10-week courses three times per year for ESL students. Students may be given conditional acceptance to SFU and required to take the course or they may apply directly to the program before seeking university admission, she said.

“Most students typically seek admission while in the program,” she said.

Fleming said she estimates about 160 students use the program every year.

She said SFU doesn’t keep track of the reasons students may leave the program before they complete it.

Based on anecdotal evidence, she said she would consider the program a success.

“One of [my students] is now a graduate student in actuarial science,” she said. “He wouldn’t have been admitted [to SFU] if he hadn’t had the program.”

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