A Joint Effort

Global demand for advanced education, taught in English, continues to grow, and the United States is the primary destination for students. Expanding middle and professional classes, especially in the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) see their futures in the innovative and creative learning environments of American colleges and universities. The opportunities for all higher education institutions are great — but the challenges of recruiting in the international market and supporting the successful education of those students also are great.

The student populations at most American colleges and universities are highly regional. Thus, increasing the portion of international students can dramatically increase the richness and diversity of the learning experience in a community. Small colleges, in particular, often can provide learning environments that help international students succeed; yet they also face financial and logistical challenges with international recruiting.

Pine Manor College (PMC), a small liberal arts college for women just outside of Boston, has approached the opportunity for international recruiting by entering into a partnership with Kings Colleges, a for-profit English language school, based in the U.K. At first glance, this may seem like an odd couple, not the least of which because of the different statuses of incorporation. But there are alignments of underlying values and of institutional interests that offer potential for innovation and success.

Founded in 1911, PMC’s initial mission was to provide a year of post-secondary learning to graduates of the private Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA. Today, the college offers both associates and bachelors degrees in that same small private education to a highly diverse student body, with many from under-represented and low-income communities.

Kings Colleges was founded in England by Fred Kings after WWII with the goal of creating a more global community that could prevent future conflicts. In recent years it has developed a successful model for English language learning in the U.K. that combines language development with preparation for entry into U.K. universities.

In this partnership, Kings Colleges is recruiting internationally for students to enter their English for Academic Study (EAS) program — a course of up to three terms that provides language development and academic readiness for entry into American higher education. In its recruiting, Kings Colleges looks for the same indicators of academic preparation and success in secondary education that are sought by Pine Manor admissions staff directly. The difference is that Kings Colleges students do not need, initially, to meet the level of language proficiency required for college entrance. The EAS program provides them with the language preparation they will need for academic success.

PMC also has made a commitment to support English language learners, both domestic and international, through the creation of the Enhanced Foundational Program. This program admits otherwise college-ready students who fall somewhat below the standard TOEFL level for direct entry. Students take at least one semester of intense college-level writing for ELL students, often combined with an academic reading course. They are also enrolled in college courses in academic disciplines, and provided with access to extra mentoring and tutoring. Students transition into the regular college course of study in one or two semesters, and generally graduate in four years. The cornerstone of the Pine Manor partnership with Kings is that Kings Colleges students are already conditionally accepted into PMC when they complete the EAS program.

The advantage of learning a language in the country where it is spoken is obvious to any of us who have studied abroad or traveled more than casually. On the other hand, professional academic success demands more than conversational fluency — especially in reading comprehension and writing ability. International students coming to study in the U.S. may appear to possess language skills measured by success on exams — but they may be quite lost in the independent learning environment of American education. By the same token, academic preparation alone, without the social and cultural immersion, will limit professional success. Pine Manor College and Kings Colleges are joining in an effort to create a learning system that will be successful on both fronts.

The PMC-Kings partnership model thus works on both recruiting and retention. Each school has similar recruiting criteria. Both institutions are committed to academic support, social interaction, and integration. This innovative partnership builds on the global recruiting network of Kings Colleges, and, by bringing international students in to a supportive college setting at an early stage, helps to bridge the gap of cultural, academic, and linguistic transition that confronts many international students in the U.S.  

William Vogele, Ph.D., is dean of Pine Manor College.

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