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BALEAP Can Do Framework: Competency statements for international students (Master’s level)

BALEAP has carried out research into the competencies required by students studying in UK universities at Master’s level. The results of this research are available as the BALEAP Can Do Framework.

The number of international students studying at universities in the UK continues to grow as does the number of courses designed to prepare them for their study, particularly at Master’s level. Expertise in EAP teaching and testing has also developed, but to date there has been a perceived lack of criteria describing student competencies which could underpin methodology, materials development and assessment. The publication of the Common European Framework of Referenceprovided a model of how such criteria might be gathered and organised. Subsequently, work has been carried out by the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA), University of Bedfordshire, contributing to the English Profile programme (see The English Profile Can Do project and and by the British Council and EAQUALS who, in partnership, have published the Core Inventory for General English including a section on competencies required for research at the CEFR C1 level.

The research project undertaken by BALEAP investigated the nature of student competencies from a different perspective – that of the lecturers who teach international students. A group of researchers interviewed lecturers from a range of universities and disciplines and analysed and collated their responses. These have been put together into a framework divided into the four skills of Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening, further subdivided into categories that reflect the range of competencies that make up each skill (Academic Context; Academic Discourse; Discipline related; Practical Skills). Within these categories there are other subdivisions allowing the grouping together of competencies that relate to a specific aspect of a skill, such as ‘Dissertation or project writing’ within the category of Writing; ‘Group’ or ‘Individual’ competencies within Speaking; or ‘Language specific’ in all categories.

The list of competencies is entirely generated by what was identified by lecturers in extensive interviews and, as might be expected, the sections on the productive skills, Writing and Speaking, are much richer and more varied than those of the receptive skills of Reading and Listening, the latter, in particular. In many cases, but not all, the competencies are recognisable as objectives that would form part of any standard EAP syllabus. However, to ensure clarity and a measure of standardisation, a further column has been added to the framework, providing exemplification and ideas for development of competencies. The ideas are brief summaries of possible activities, but a further resource is under development which will consist of possible lesson plans. This will be added to gradually to build a much larger resource of teaching materials.

It is envisaged that the framework could be used as a reference document, acting as a basis for:

  • Developing curricula and syllabuses for EAP courses
  • Developing teaching materials for such courses
  • Providing a basis for assessment tasks (formative and summative)
  • Supporting teacher development, particularly where teachers are moving into EAP from General English teaching

Can Do Framework with sample activities [ PDF 577KB ]


WP current members: Sarah Brewer, Carmel Roche, Diane Schmitt, John Slaght, Anneli Williams

WP past members: Colin Campbell, Moira Calderwood

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