The Pre-sessional, an option to gain experience and improve your CV

Writer(s): 
Nick Doran

Every summer in the UK, universities hold pre-sessional courses to prepare foreign students for regular university studies. Due to a rising number of students attending university in the UK, there is an equivalent increase in demand for teachers to teach on these courses (Jordan, 2002). Having just completed a 5-week pre-sessional course at a university in London, I would recommend that other teachers who are eligible to work in the UK also consider teaching in a British university over the summer vacation. 

Benefits

Working on a pre-sessional course is generally well-paid with a gross weekly wage of around £700 (100 000 yen) for full-time contracted positions. A number of universities advertise for teachers to teach part-time at an hourly rate of around £35 (5000 yen), however, these are best avoided as no guarantees are made regarding the minimum number of teaching hours available. Pre-sessional courses generally run for 5, 8 or 11 weeks which means it is possible for teachers to earn several thousand pounds.

The experience of teaching on a pre-sessional can be beneficial for teachers who are considering relocating from Japan to the UK. The experience gained on these courses and contacts made could potentially pay dividends when seeking employment at a later date. For those who are planning on staying in Japan, there are advantages such as the opportunity to broaden teaching knowledge by teaching in a distinctly different context to that of Japan. In the UK, the make up of classes is often an eclectic mix of nationalities and for teaching professionals it can be a rewarding experience to teach these classes.  

The classes

Teaching a pre-sessional course was an enjoyable experience for me as students were mature and highly-motivated. The course consisted mainly of Chinese postgraduates although other nationalities were also represented including Japanese and Europeans. Experience of working in Japan could be an advantage in terms of being accepted to work on a course and with basic teaching qualifications as the CELTA, it is not overly difficult to get accepted. Class sizes were generally a manageable 12 to 14 students.

Course Content

The content of classes can vary depending on the length of the pre-sessional course, however, in general there is a strong focus on EAP including reading academic texts, note-taking for lectures, presentation skills and essay writing Other subjects including seminar skills, IELTS preparation, and General English may also be included (Goh, 1998). 

Drawbacks

Although teaching on a pre-sessional is, as mentioned, well paid, the biggest drawback is how the expense of a flight to the UK, living expenses, and income tax can seriously erode any income earned. An additional drawback relates to the chaotic nature of life in the UK compared with the seemingly more ordered life in Japan. In the university where I worked I had to deal with a number of frustrations such as missing resources, painfully slow computers, and faulty AV equipment.  

Applying for a position

An excellent resource for finding positions is the jobs section of the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP) website. The application period starts around February with many positions vacant until late July. For me, the application process was straightforward, involving the completion of an online application form and a Skype interview.

For those who would like more information of pre-sessional courses, I can be contacted at 5047749@rikkyo.ac.jp

References

Goh, C. M. (1998). Emerging environments of English of academic purposes and the implications for learning materials. RELC Journal, 29, pp. 20-33.

Jordan, R. R. (2002). The growth of EAP in Britain, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 1(1), pp. 69-78.

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