Archive for March, 2015

Portfolio preparation is essential for admission to degrees in art and design, fashion design, or architecture, but many international students struggle with the concept and the details. James Galloway gives a basic guide to the requirements.

If you’re coming to the UK to do a design or arts degree, you will have to submit a portfolio as part of your application. This can be the challenging part, as each university and each course will have slightly different requirements about the content and how it is presented. However, your portfolio is the best opportunity you have to really demonstrate your abilities in and passion for your chosen subject, and making a portfolio also gives you the chance to show how your ideas have developed over time, as well as a chance to explain your influences and inspirations.
First of all, what is a portfolio? Generally speaking, your portfolio is a collection of your work in your chosen subject, and it shows how your skills and ideas have developed. Your portfolio also demonstrates your creativity, your commitment and, most of all, your personality. Think of your portfolio as your personal gallery or exhibition space, but use it also to show the research and processes that you used to develop your ideas – these are almost as important as the final work itself.
Your portfolio will also need to be relevant to the level of study you going for. An undergraduate portfolio will be simpler than a postgraduate portfolio, of course, but will still need to show idea development and inspiration. Including your most recent work is important, even if it is unfinished, as the university or college will want to see where your ideas and creativity are at the moment. A postgraduate portfolio will demonstrate your ability to research through investigation, and how you are able to process ideas and concepts, and incorporate them into your own work.
Your portfolio will need to have some logical order to it, so it’s best to remember to group work according to theme or content. The presentation of your portfolio needs to be consistent, and it needs to be clear what each item or piece of work represents. The quality of your work is important, rather than the quantity, so instead of overloading your portfolio, focus or narrow the range of work you include to cover certain themes or the concepts you want to illustrate. If you are unsure of the length or volume of work you need to submit in your portfolio, you should check with your agent, as they will be able to speak directly with the university, or have staff who can help you with assembling the portfolio, and with other preparation. If you still need help, try to find a private tutor who can offer specific portfolio preparation support.
So how do you submit your portfolio? Each course will have different requirements, but in general you will have to submit your portfolio via CD-ROM or DVD, as a sketchbook, as photographs, as slides, and sometimes as a link to a personal website or Flickr page. If you get invited to an interview, you might be asked to bring pieces – such as sculpture – with you, so you will need to be practical about your choices, as you will have to carry them on a train or in a taxi! Your portfolio will also need to have a description with it, which is an opportunity for you to explain your ideas in writing, and talk about the inspirations and thoughts behind your work, and how they developed.
The important thing to remember is that there is no exact formula for getting the portfolio right: it is a personal statement, and it is judged on content, and how that content developed. Your agent can help you on the presentation and the format, but the ideas will be have to be your own. Working closely with your education agent or consultant will give you a head start, however, and you will be able to submit your portfolio with confidence.

Who can help with your academic English?

March 25, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Academic English and Proof Readers.

Academic English and essay writing can be difficult for many British students, so what chance does an international student have of doing well at university? James Galloway looks at the issue, and tells us how using a proofreading service can make all the difference to your grades.




We’ve all been there: it’s late at night, we’re staring at our computer, and we’re trying to work out just what those confusing academic guidelines mean for our essay. Should I indent those quotes? Should I even be quoting that part? Does this sentence make sense? Am I answering the question? All this goes through our minds, and as international students, trying to write essays in a foreign language is challenging enough, without having to think about writing it in academic English. Universities don’t always provide enough support for international students, either, so it’s difficult to find a solution that will help us improve our academic English, and keep our grades high.

There is one solution that is increasingly popular, and that is using a proof reader. A proof reader is someone who checks a document for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and can make sure that it reads smoothly. This can be really useful for international students worried about their academic English, and who are unsure if they are meeting their university’s guidelines. There are many companies out there who will help you with your essays, but if you’re not sure who to trust, or which company sounds reliable, then it’s best if you ask an academic counsellor, a consultant or agent, who knows where to find professional proofreaders and editors. You will pay by the hour, or by the number of words, and it is worth checking before you do agree to use their services, in case you have something like a long dissertation as that could become quite expensive!

Something that is really important for universities in the UK is the idea of ‘academic integrity’, or more simply, being honest about the work you’re submitting. The biggest issue is plagiarism, which in the UK is a form of cheating. Plagiarism is when you copy someone else’s work or ideas, and say they are your own. Quoting from someone is fine, but you always need to cite it, or say where it is from. Proof readers can help you with this, as university guidelines are quite strict about citation, and the format of your essay will usually need to be a certain way. The proof reader shouldn’t help you with the ideas themselves, however, as they need to be your own original ideas. Universities ultimately judge their students on the content of their work, so if you are an international student and you have strong, original ideas, but need some help expressing them in perfect English, then a proof reader is a great way to polish your essays.

A good proofreader will correct mistakes, but should also be able to advise you on your academic style of writing, on how to make your writing more powerful and effective, and highlight where your argument may not be supported well enough by facts or references. They should concentrate on taking your academic knowledge, and showing you how to express it better in academic English, without getting involved in the subject area.

Getting help with writing essays is great, but there are other companies online who will write your essays for you, and buying an essay online is a really bad idea in the UK. This is called academic misconduct, and you could fail a module or even a course if you get caught. Having something proofread is fine, as this will mean that only your mistakes get corrected, or the flow of the essay is changed so it is smoother. So try to remember, when you’re looking for help with your academic English, avoid paying someone to change your ideas, or to write your essays for you. Your course tutor and you agent will be able to give you advice, and will be able to help you improve your academic English in a way that is honest.

How to prepare for arrival in the UK – an international student’s guide.

By James Galloway

Coming to the UK as an international student is an exciting time: you’ll be making new friends, having new experiences, and learning new things every day. You’ll be starting a new life in the UK, and whether you’re coming to university or another place of study, that means there will be a lot to prepare. Let’s start with some basics.

It might seem obvious, but as an international student, you’ll need a valid passport, and you will need to have applied for and obtained a visa. You can apply for a visa yourself, but it’s often easier to ask an immigration advisor to help you with that, as they will know which documents you will need, and have a good understanding of the application process. If you do hire anyone to help with your visa, in the UK they must be registered with the OISC, which is part of the Home Office.

Students in the UK have their own halls of residence, but for international students at your place of study it might be different. Have you booked a place in a hall of residence? Have you arranged other accommodation? When can you check in? These are important questions you need to ask yourself. You will need to apply in advance, so make sure you take care of your accommodation as soon as possible.

As an international student, you will of course want to go out, go shopping, and buy things for your course. To do this you’ll need some cash – and making sure you have enough to cover your expenses for when you first arrive is an important thing to prepare. You can exchange currency at the airport, but the exchange rates there aren’t always favourable. The best idea is to either exchange it in your home country, or, if you think you can survive a few days, to research some good exchange rates at banks in the UK, which you can do online.

It’s one thing having money, and another thing being able to spend it: a budget, or at least setting limits on what you want to spend on living expenses, is also important. You don’t want to spend too much when you first arrive, but nor do you want to save everything and not go out and enjoy your new surroundings. So a balance needs to be reached, and having a limit on how much money you want to spend is a good idea.

You’ll also need to be ready for when you land in the UK. Whether you’re arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick, the first people that you’ll be talking to are Border Force, the officials at Passport Control. There usually won’t be a problem with them if your visa and passport are in order, but it will be a good idea to keep certain documents with you in your hand luggage, because a digital copy on your tablet or phone won’t be enough if you get asked!

Just in case you get asked, it will be a good idea to have copies of information on your course, for example your enrolment letter, and in certain cases you might need to show recent bank statements. This will be in only rare cases, as the bank statements show you will be able to pay for your course, or that you have a job in your home country that you plan on returning to. If you have been asked to show bank statements in your visa application, then you should have copies of those bank statements with you in your hand luggage.

Of course, you will also need to be ready to answer questions from Border Force when you arrive, such as why you’re coming to the UK, how long you plan to stay, and where you’ll be staying. These won’t be difficult questions, but you will need to answer them clearly – so try to be awake when you land! And definitely don’t forget that if you are coming with over €10,000 – or the equivalent – in cash, you will need to declare it when you arrive.