UC Berkeley News


Why Extension will end English Language Program
Q&A with Extension Dean James Sherwood

04 February 2004


James Sherwood
Peg Skorpinski photo

Beginning May 7, 2004, University of California Berkeley Extension will no longer offer an English Language Program. One of the first such programs in this country, the program was established some 31 years ago, and has provided English instruction to students from all over the world.

Extension Dean James Sherwood responded to the following questions about why the program is being discontinued:

The English Language Program debuted here in 1973. What has changed since that time to justify the decision to no longer offer it?
The program, from its inception, met a need of an important segment of the university’s international audience, and at the beginning the English Language Program was among a limited number of English language training providers. But today such programs are ubiquitous, and the unique value provided by the English Language Program is no longer present. In addition, the demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) courses in the U.S. has changed significantly over the past several years. Twenty years ago, the U.S. was the destination of choice for most international students seeking to improve their English language skills. Today, we see more and more students choosing other nations, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

Has the role or mission of UC Berkeley Extension changed?
Extension has been in business 113 years, offering a wide range of programming — some 1,000 courses in a range of disciplines each term. In 2003, we provided more than 2,500 courses in six locations around the Bay Area, generating 45,000 enrollments. Recently, we adopted a new strategic plan, which aims to align Extension programming more closely with that of Berkeley in terms of campus programs and academic strengths. To that end, we are focusing our resources on the courses and programs that fulfill that mission.

So yes, the strategic plan has led to a reexamination of our mission and our standards for offering courses and programs. In all departments, we have had to ask ourselves if existing programs meet specific criteria that build on, and correspond to, Berkeley’s academic programs. In the case of the English Language Program, we have decided that it does not.

What are the strategic criteria that the English Language Program no longer meets?
All Extension programming units reviewed their curricula according to strategic criteria that included focusing on upper-division or post-baccalaureate levels of instruction, corresponding to campus programs or strengths, and reflecting a partnership with campus. The English Language Program did not meet these particular criteria.

How is Extension aligning its programs with those of the campus?
A key aim of Extension’s strategic plan is strengthening the connection with campus. We’ve outlined several initiatives to support that aim. They include enhancing the role of Berkeley faculty in Extension program development and design, and as faculty advisers. We also intend to develop conferences and institutes in partnership with campus — exemplified by, for example, the Berkeley Summer Engineering Institute collaboration between Extension and the College of Engineering.

The strategic plan calls for international programming that reflects Berkeley academic programs and strengths. What current or planned programs fulfill this mission?
Our current focus is on maintaining and growing our International Diploma Programs (IDP), which provide in-depth, specialized curricula to thousands of international students from more than 35 countries. Currently, the IDP offer programs in business administration, computer information systems, finance, information technology management, international business, and other fields. All programs have the prerequisite of a bachelor’s degree and an appropriate TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score. We’re also expanding our custom-designed training for international corporations and universities. In the coming months we will be looking for other programming opportunities that fit with our strategic plan.