Academic Skills for MA: A student driven, subject-specific study support programme


Students on the MA in English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (ELTAL) course, the majority of whom were Chinese, were given the opportunity to highlight areas of concern about academic skills by posting (anonymously) on a dedicated Moodle page. Key topics identified included critical thinking, referencing, note-taking, and avoiding plagiarism.


Link to Education Strategy Pillars

  • Intercultural and international engagement
  • Innovation and digital fluency
  • Research inspired teaching



In response to feedback from international students that academic skills provision did not meet their specific needs, a student-driven programme was developed to support postgraduates on a range of courses within the School of Humanities. A secondary aim was to support students with the development of digital literacy skills, as these varied considerably across the cohort of students.



  • There appeared to be a direct correlation between students’ attendance at the academic skills sessions and improvement in their overall academic performance.
  • Positive feedback from student reps led the sessions to be extended to last two hours, and rolled out beyond the MA ELTAL to students from several other courses.


Student Feedback

“I realised the skills were different to my undergraduate...a huge challenge... the university give us an opportunity to have additional support sessions to develop critical skills.”


Top Tips

  • Course teams can take a “students as partners” approach to research, and effectively address, the needs of learners.
  • Careful planning is needed to ensure that a support programme is organised effectively (e.g. timetabling to align with students’ main course(s); access to PC rooms or electronic devices; development time and support for digital resources).
  • Dedicated academic skills development is especially valuable to learners who are new to the UK Higher Education context, particularly for competencies such as critical thinking which may be unfamiliar to them.