Margaret Combs, Director, Intensive English Program
American University of Kuwait
As a newly developed program that commenced and was integrated into a university start up in 2004, the American University of Kuwait’s (AUK) Intensive English Program (IEP) was a ground up operation and emerged in tandem with the overall university mission and vision. Albeit integrated intellectually and academically with the undergraduate program of the university, the IEP developed its own organizational and curricular structure to better serve the needs of the students. For the IEP, seeking accreditation soon after the first graduation cycle of the university was important for two reasons:
- Provide the IEP with international legitimacy and recognition
- Provide the IEP with an opportunity to systematically reflect and assess its
own standards against benchmarks that are internationally recognized.
Thus by meeting the CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions, the IEP has been provided with a vote of confidence that its methods of teaching and its operations are internationally appropriate and that it meets and exceeds the expectations appropriate for an Intensive English Program.
The CEA self-study posed a tremendous challenge to our program considering the program’s short longevity. The curricular and operational changes that the IEP underwent during its first 4 years of operations were based on the IEP’s attempt to more accurately serve the needs of a student body in regards to English language proficiency at a university level that has not been previously served before in the educational history of Kuwait. The CEA self-study encouraged the IEP to make a solid attempt at stabilizing the curriculum and streamlining its operations as well as developing a system of assessment and analysis in order to be able to prove that the IEP is delivering its mission. Harnessing operations and providing an honest reflection of the IEP required good team work and a solid line of communications, as well as professional trust. Thus the CEA self-study encouraged a closer working relationship within the IEP program and emphasized the need for closer cooperative engagements with all university units. CEA accreditation was not only IEP accreditation—it was the university’s accreditation. It created a sense of ownership and increased the level of responsibility and accountability when it came to the program’s success, and above all student success.
The single most important effect that the CEA self-study and accreditation had on the program was in establishing the importance of a solid system of assessment and analysis that is streamlined both horizontally and vertically. Integrated assessment methods that are multi-variant have enhanced the manner in which the IEP is measuring student satisfaction, and is continuing to develop curriculum. The IEP’s hiring process of new faculty keeps in mind the CEA requirements of good teaching and learning practices.
Through the CEA accreditation, the IEP has enjoyed a broader respect as to the importance of its mission with respect to teaching university bound students English fluency. It provided the IEP with a legitimate educational framework under which its operations proceed, and emphasized the need for standardization and assessment on all levels. Thus IEP needs and concerns are as important as any other university concern in and out of campus. As such, the IEP has ceased to be a mere afterthought as is often perceived but rather is being considered as an essential foundational unit whose effectiveness is essential to the smooth running of a university.
Fortunately, there have not been any downsides to the CEA process of accreditation other than the arduous journey of the self-study. Two tangible benefits resulting from this process are 1) the ability to attract and retain highly qualified and effective faculty and 2) the ability to attract the brightest and most prepared students who simply lack English language proficiency.