Senate eliminates LPI prerequisites for first-year English courses

Starting summer 2019, students will no longer need to take the Language Proficiency Index (LPI) test to register in first-year English courses such as ENGL 112.

The LPI Test is an exam administered by Paragon Testing Enterprises, a subsidiary of UBC, to assess English language proficiency of prospective and current students. The LPI requirements mainly impacted international students who did not attend International Baccalaureate (IB) schools or domestic students who did not receive a specified grade in English 12.

Approved by the UBC Vancouver Senate at their December 2018 meeting, the decision aims to “put all students on an equal footing for entry to ENGL courses.”

“This change will streamline students’ progress in first-year writing across the university and will put all students on an equal footing for entry to ENGL courses, regardless of experience or background,” the report reads.

A welcomed change?

Most international students who talked to The Ubyssey are happy about this move.

First-year engineering Saka Adiarto believed these prerequisites prevented deserving students from registering in ENGL 112.

“LPI was a waste of my time and money and [didn’t have much] importance,” said Adiarto.

“I have many friends who are excellent in English but couldn’t fulfill the LPI criteria, and had to register in WRDS 150.”

On a grand scheme, the students who fail to meet the prerequisites are a “very small” portion of the students who enroll, according to a Senate report.

But some students expressed concerns that the relaxed standards could deteriorate the quality of English courses.

UBC Distance Learning’s course overview assumes students “know how to write and that you have experience with many styles of written communication.”

Parth Shukla, a first-year student in ENGL 112, was concerned this change would affect the quality of peer-evaluation activities in English classes.

“Part of this class is group work and peer-reviewing,” said Shukla. “I worry [that these activities] would suffer if my fellow students aren’t as good [in the course].”

Ensuring ‘an equal footing’

Dr. Stefania Burk, associate dean academic of the faculty of arts, said she disagrees that the quality of these courses could be impacted.

“Given the way instructors design courses and assessment criteria … I see no evidence of this happening,” she said. “We’ve had hundreds of sections of WRDS 150 which have never included the LPI barrier, and there is no evidence to foresee deteriorating quality of teaching.”

She further explained that in order to maintain the quality of teaching, the class size of ENGL 112 has been capped to 30 students.

“With this change to class size, we are confident that we can support this very small number of students without requiring them to carry out additional preparatory work before they begin study in ENGL,” the Senate report reads.

Shukla was also concerned about the consequences of changing the class size, adding that he was waitlisted in this mandatory course for a long time.

“[The] waitlist eased off only close to the start of the term,” he said.

While the winter 2019 sections for ENGL 112 seem to have been reduced, Burk assured that the overall number of sections that satisfy the course requirements have been increased.

“We’ve already increased the number of sections for summer and over the next year,” she said.

“We’re transitioning from ENGL 112 to WRDS 150. There will be more access to the courses [that] meet the requirements for both Arts and non-Arts students.”