A newly-introduced study module for first-year University students who obtained a Grade 4 or 5 in their English language SEC is a "pilot study" and consultations on its implementation are ongoing, the University said today. 

The University clarified that entry requirements had not been changed, with students still requiring an English language SEC score of Grade 5 or better to be eligible for university entry. 

READ: Poor writing skills leaving employers unable to hire

First-year University students with SEC Grades 4 and 5 in English were told last December that they were being automatically enrolled in an English Communicative Aptitude programme that would take place during their second semester. The programme is intended to bolster students' English language skills, with employers having previously complained about graduates' poor written communication skills. 

The University's decision to introduce the pilot study ECA programme took students and student representatives by surprise.The University's decision to introduce the pilot study ECA programme took students and student representatives by surprise.

Students were informed of the ECA programme in a letter by Rector Alfred Vella posted on University noticeboards in mid-December. The letter told students that the programme was being introduced "with the full support of KSU" - something the students' council subsequently denied, saying that the rector's letter "came as a surprise to KSU as things were still very vague."

The KSU were not the only ones taken by surprise. Many affected students expressed consternation at the sudden decision to enrol them in a course more than two months into their studies, without prior warning. 

The Nationalist Party subsequently waded into the issue, saying that while it appreciated the programme's intention, the manner in which it had been introduced was "hasty". 

In a statement issued this morning, the University said that ECA grades would "in no way" affect students' progression from one year to the next or their final diploma or degree classification. 

It noted that some students had voluntarily signed up to the programme to improve their English language skills, that initial classroom feedback was positive and that key industry stakeholders had received news of the programme positively. 

Questions sent to the University last week asking why it had introduced the ECA programme midway through the academic year and whether it excluded making the module compulsory for all students, regardless of their SEC English grade, remained unanswered. 

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