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Université Libre de Bruxelles 2: Plan Langues – Faculté des Sciences appliquées

Author(s): Ian Tudor
Institution/Organisation: Université Libre de Bruxelles (BE)

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS CASE

1.1 Scope of the initiative


This case study relates to an initiative undertaken as part of the Plan Langues of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) http://www.ulb.ac.be/planlangues/ within one administrative unit of the ULB, the Faculty of Applied Science (Faculté des Sciences appliquées - FSA) http://www.ulb.ac.be/facs/polytech/index.html.

The initiative, Plan Langues – FSA (http://www.ulb.ac.be/facs/polytech/plan_langues.html), shares the same general objectives and structure as the Plan Langues in the other three faculties concerned (cf. Case Study MOLAN ULB 1: Plan Langues), but with a number of features which merit specific attention. These relate to the specific implementation of the Plan Langues itself, and also to the broader faculty context within which the Plan Langues was adopted. The case study will not repeat background information on the Plan Langues as a whole, but will focus on its implementation within the framework of the FSA. For the sake of clarity, readers are therefore advised to consult MOLAN ULB 1: Plan Langues prior to the present case study.

The initiative targets 1st cycle students, and covers all three years of the students’ 1st cycle programme – BA1, BA2 and BA3, with a total weighting of 8 ECTS.

1.2 Range of languages studied


The Plan Langues - FSA involves the teaching of English. This choice reflects the role of English in the students’ academic field, and also the importance of this language in terms of international mobility in both academic and professional terms. Indeed, English is the working language of a considerable number of future employers of FSA graduates within Belgium, both international and Belgian companies.

However, certain possibilities exist for the learning of Dutch, as well as for mobility programmes in countries with other languages (cf. 3.1; 3.3; 4.4, below).

1.3 Learning outcomes


In achievement terms, the goals of the Plan Langues launched in the academic year 2005-06 were defined with respect to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), with B1 as the target level (cf.3.1; 3.2, below).

Learning outcomes are cross-defined in terms of skills and domain of use. The target skills are reading, listening, writing, and speaking. They are developed in close connection with students’ present academic needs and the requirements of their future professional life. These objectives are explicitly related to the increasingly global nature of the economy and to the importance of graduates being prepared to operate effectively in multilingual and multicultural contexts.

The main learning outcomes targeted are:

  • Students’ ability to understand lectures and to take notes in their specialist domain;
  • Students’ ability to understand specialist written material in English relating to their specialist domain;
  • Students’ ability to write coherent textual material in English in their specialist domain, and to express themselves clearly and coherently in the spoken language on academically and professionally relevant topics.  

1.4 Practical implementation


As in the other Plan Langues faculties, the Plan Langues – FSA involves obligatory and ECTS-credited courses taught by ULB staff, as well as access to remedial courses offered by the Fondation 9. The structure of the obligatory ECTS-credited component is as follows (http://www.ulb.ac.be/facs/polytech/plan_langues.html):

  • BA1: 2 ECTS – Listening to lectures and note-taking;
  • BA2: 2 ECTS – Reading for academic purposes;
  • BA3. 4 ECTS – Speaking and writing for academic purposes. This course involves 2 ECTS of Travaux personnels (Personal Work) relating to the preparation of a personal project linked to students’ domain of study.

Teaching is conducted in groups of 25-30 students. Groups are organised on the basis of students’ level in English, and attendance is obligatory. The teaching-learning materials as well as testing materials and formats are linked to students’ specialist domain. The approach to course design and materials development is thus an example of EAP / pre-experience ESP.

In addition, students are strongly advised to take the diagnostic test DIALANG (http://www.dialang.org/english/index.htm) in English prior to registering in their first year. Those who have results at A2 level or below are recommended to undertake remedial work. Students take a ULB level test in BA1 before the beginning of classes which both informs them of their current level in English and also serves to place students in homogeneous class groups.

NB. The FSA is the only administrative unit of the ULB which has an admission examination. This examination is based on mathematics (a key enabling competence in applied science). This means that a degree of pre-selection is in place. This explains why failure rates in BA1 in the FSA are lower than in most other administrative units of the ULB. Furthermore, although there is no necessary link between competence in mathematics and competence in English, average levels in this language in the FSA are higher than in most other administrative units of the ULB. These factors explain why the language teaching programme of the FSA starts in BA1 whereas in the other Plan Langues faculties teaching begins only in BA2.

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