British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP 2019), Innovation, Exploration and Transformation
Session: ‘EAP for Syrian Academics at Risk: Facilitating engagement and collaboration’ by Michael Jenkins.
The Cara (Council for At-Risk Academics) Syria Programme is an innovative programme of support for Syrian academics based largely in Turkiye. The overall aim is to strengthen and build connections among Syria’s academics whilst in exile by facilitating their continued academic development. The programme includes EAP, academic skills development (ASD) and the connecting of the Syrians with discipline experts in the UK.
BALEAP was approached by Cara in the autumn of 2016 enquiring about the possibility of providing EAP for displaced Syrian academics. Led by EAP teachers at the Universities of Reading, Sheffield and Edinburgh, a programme of blended online and face to face support grew out of this initial approach. This is supplemented with regular face to face workshops in Turkiye in EAP and ASD. It has become accepted practice that EAP involves not only the teaching of language within academic contexts but also more broadly the ‘associated practices that people need in order to undertake study or work in English medium higher education’ (Gillet, 2019). As such, the work of EAP and ASD units should be broadly complementary. However, most ASD and EAP units are often only distantly connected within the university institutional structure. A sense of territorial tension can often characterise attempts to collaborate and coordinate these units’ approaches to student support. Despite this, there seems to be relatively little literature on the current institutional distance between these units and how student support in the broadest sense can be better coordinated.
The programme has offered the opportunity for intense collaboration between EAP and ASD specialists in the design and co-delivery of the workshops in Turkiye. This has helped to explore and develop understanding of how the work of EAP and ASD practitioners can be complementary and, at times, where our work overlaps.
The online part of the programme has also led to the development of practical online teaching skills as well as the forging of productive, collaborative engagement of EAP teachers with their paired Syrian academics. This session will outline the programme from an EAP perspective. There will be opportunities to share experience of how ASD and EAP units are situated within the structure of institutions and how productive dialogue and collaboration can be initiated and encouraged. We will also welcome suggestions for how we can continue to expand this voluntary programme and comments on how we might choose to adapt this programme for future crises.
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