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EL quality analysis: Strength In Separate Sectors

Melanie Butler compares state and private adult provision in UK ELT

The British Council inspection scheme is unique in that it inspects English language provision across a wide range of institution types. For those placing adult students, there are two sectors which stand out as having a stronger quality profile: state further education (FE) colleges, which concentrate on vocational education, and university language centres.

There are just over fifty FE colleges, specialising in vocational training for students aged over sixteen, in the inspection scheme. Compared with private language centres, whose profile (left) shows the most common score in the ELgo ranking is one star, meaning they scored no strengths on inspection, the colleges show a regular distribution curve, with the largest number reaching three stars, between three and four strengths, and exactly equal numbers above and below this median point. The colleges, which mostly offer courses of a term or longer, are notable for their low prices and generally offer excellent value for money, while the colleges at the top of the quality range are hidden gems of British ELT provision.

There are some fifty British university language centres and, as the graph shows, they have a much higher mode score than the private language schools. Indeed at four stars, between five and seven points of strength, they are one standard deviation above the mode score in the private adult sector. The universities, many of which run year-long courses in academic English open to all students, tend to charge no more than the average cost per hour, according to research by ELgo. There is no correlation between the overall ranking of the university and the quality of its English language teaching – the two top universities, Brighton and Leeds Beckett, are part of the wave of new universities which concentrate on teaching, while the lowest scoring university language centre, Warwick, is a high-ranking Russell Group member.

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