Faculty of Language Studies
“Making a difference” is both our mission and our target.
The Faculty of Language Studies (FLS) was established in 2002, at the very start of AOU. At present, it offers a BA Programme (Hons) in English Language and Literature in eight branches. The programme is based on the Open University courses in the UK and uses textbooks and approaches of the highest international standards. Demand on the English Language and Literature Programme is growing, as it is relevant not only to students’ intellectual and knowledge growth, but also to their career needs.
The English Language and Literature Programme (ELL) was established with the aim of offering an experience in language learning that is not offered in much (if not all) of our part of the world. It was not intended to be “just another faculty.” Additionally, the idea of “open” education in the sphere of languages, in particular, is not only an elegant and advanced idea, but also – one would argue – a necessity. We can no longer afford to continue to teach and learn in traditional, old-fashioned ways. The world we live in, which has changed dramatically in the past two decades, offers so much potential and so many new tools and variables. We have to “open” ourselves to this potential and we have to make use of these tools; and, naturally, adapt to the variables and use them to our advantage. Undeniably, some levels of the traditional face-to-face methods of delivery are still relevant (in some ways, even necessary); but many levels are simply outdated, simply a waste of time. We have to tutor and learn in new ways.
We at FLS are committed to the basic principle of open learning, which is strongly-tied to the principle of education for all, which itself is part and parcel of the concept of lifelong learning and of the democratisation of education. In fact, we at FLS consciously and conscientiously attempt to strike a balance between face-to-face education and on-line learning, thus privileging the blended-learning approach over any one single mode of learning.
The degree offered by AOU has been equated to degree offered by State Egyptian Universities, and is fully recognized by both the Supreme Council of Universities (SCU) in Egypt and the Open University (OU) in the UK. As a result, all graduates receive two fully accredited degree certificates, one from AOU and one from the OU.
In addition to the specialisation programme, FLS houses the English Language Unit which is primarily responsible for both the English Orientation & Foundation programmes. These two programmes, which the students normally take in their first-year, are tailored for students who enrol at the university, with the dual aim of working on their problem areas in English and on enhancing their English communication skills, to enable them to pursue their studies at AOU successfully and to prepare them for the workplace later. ELU is also responsible for implementing the English Placement Test (EPT) and a host of activities which support English-language learning. And it is entrusted with the task of tailoring and supervising the ESP courses and programmes at AOU. As of the academic year 2011/2012, a new package of English was introduced, which contains more levels, new textbooks, and a new approach to learning – all for the purpose of boosting English-language learning further.
How do I know ELL is for me?
The English Language and Literature Programme is essentially made up of courses within the interrelated realms of language, literature and linguistics. It also ventures into the spheres of discourse analysis, pragmatics and culture. Clearly, a BA programme in English Language and Literature enables the graduates of the programme to be competent in the fields of linguistics and English Literature, two fields essential to any intellectual, well-rounded person’s education and to any society’s needs – stressing here that English literature has actually expanded over the years to include all literatures written in (or even translated into) English. Such crucial development comes with the aim of catering to students’ global education and outlook – a must in today’s world. But a degree in language and literature also qualifies students for the workplace. Graduates of literature and linguistics develop a command of the language that transcends their specific fields of study to include the language of journalism, media, the marketplace, politics, etc. After all, a programme in English Language and Literature graduates students in possession of excellent language communication skills, both oral and written. Recently, we have been working on developing the programme, giving students a more solid background in language and offering them more options. Toward the former end, we have just introduced a new course in Oral and Presentation Skills; toward the latter, we have introduced a new course on Children’s literature. Needless to say, during 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 all of our courses will be replaced with new courses.
Why Study English
Programmes of English Language and Literature in our region date back to the late 1920s and early 1930s, when they were first introduced in Iraq and Egypt under the British “mandate.” Since then, they have acquired a lot of popularity, always attracting some of the best students throughout the Arab World. The ELL programme is particularly successful because it combines the language, linguistic, and literary elements which aid students in learning English effectively and developing the necessary critical, analytical, and cultural skills.
In addition to all of this, the ELL programme derives its importance at AOU from the obvious link to one of AOU’s strategic objectives (among others, of course): “Instil in its students the spirit of upholding Arab-Islamic social and ethical values and an appreciation of other human cultures and heritages.” As can be seen from such an objective, “an appreciation of other human cultures and heritages” is a fundamental premise at AOU. This is why ELL was one of the first four programmes of study to be launched in 2002. The willingness and desire to engage with foreign languages, cultures, and sciences is deeply rooted in the Arab-Islamic civilization and, indeed, history tells us that the Muslim Caliphs rewarded scholars who translated books from other languages into Arabic with gold equivalent to the weight of the translated work. Today, as we embark on a globalized, multicultural world, knowledge of global cultures becomes a necessity. This very principle was underscored in the Strategyfor the Development of Arab Education — the monumental work prepared by Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization [ALECSO] published in 1979 – which proclaimed:
The Arab nation cannot afford to be isolated from the international community and from contemporary culture. Contrary to this, it has made throughout its history contacts with other peoples and cultures and should continue to do so in order to know the world at large and to assimilate the scientific and technological revolution… and take an active role in attaining international peace that is based on justice, right and equality.
It should be stressed in this context that we live in a diverse, multicultural world where, in addition to the many similarities we share as human beings, there are differences among cultures. These differences should be respected and appreciated, as much as we respect and appreciate our own.
AOU underlines the importance of a degree in English, also, because:
A) English is the global lingua franca, and thus a reasonable mastery of English is an essential requirement for productive international communication and cooperation. Today, there are more than 450 million users of English as a native- or first-language and as many as 350 million users of English as a second language in countries as different as India or Nigeria. It has been estimated that about 80% of the various uses of English do not involve native-speakers at all, but involve two or more non-native speakers using the language as their lingua franca. It is furthermore predicted that, given current population trends, there will be 50% more speakers of English as a foreign language than native-speakers within a decade, making English even more vital to international communication than it is today.
B) English is the language of science, technology, business, economy, aviation, industry, and tourism, as well as the language of great literatures, and thus a necessary tool for the economic, social, cultural and technological development of each and every Arab country.
C) Specialists in English Language and Literature are generally prepared to advocate Arab and Islamic culture, modes of thinking, and ideals to the global community by employing the rhetoric appropriate to different nations in different parts of the world. Who is more equipped to contribute to this tremendous task and this type of dialogue than someone well-versed in the world’s “lingua franca”?
ELL potential careers
In addition to the prestige associated with the ELL programme (with some describing them, in terms of popularity, as the “medicine” of the humanities), it always guarantees its graduates almost instant and excellent employment opportunities. The graduates of these programmes are always proficient in language and communication skills, which are necessary in the workplace. In addition, students who enrol in an ELL programme always find the programme a horizon opener: in many ways it is the students’ window to the world. Besides the language and communication skills, the programme has always provided students enrolled in it with other important skills: critical, analytical, intellectual, aesthetic, and cultural skills – skills which further empower the graduates in both the workplace and society at large.
Our graduates have more opportunities in the marketplace and in society than before, for example:
- In the media and press sector.
- n businesses, international and local, which hire students with excellent language and oral presentation skills.
- In translation.
- In private schools and universities which are spreading every day and offer better pay, etc.