International students in UK higher education often experience lower academic success compared to British home students. One of the contributing factors to the differential attainment appears to be language: despite arriving with required language qualifications, EFL students know significantly fewer words, are much slower readers and understand less of what they read than British home students. Language difficulties, however, have been predominantly demonstrated on Chinese students, and it is unclear to what extent the language and academic difficulties of this population are representative of other international students, especially of those who come from typologically closer languages to English or who study with fewer fellow speakers of the same language. Understanding language difficulties of international students and what factors contribute to them is critical for developing appropriate support.
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The study will compare EFL university students in the UK and their British peers on a number of cognitive, language and literacy measures, including general intelligence, speed of processing in English, vocabulary size, reading comprehension and academic writing. The tests will be administered at the beginning at the end of an academic year. Participants will be tested individually. Their performance will be compared via mixed-design ANOVAs, with time as a within-subject and group as a between-subject factor. Bivariate correlations and linear regression will be used to explore the effect of language and literacy measures at the point of entry on academic outcomes at the end of the year, expressed as participants’ credit-weighted average mark.