English Proficiency for Teaching Assistantships
ENGLISH PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENT FOR TEACHING ASSISTANTS/ASSOCIATES (ASSOCIATE IN)
All graduate students, except those who have earned an undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction according to the World Higher Education Database, are required to demonstrate oral English proficiency before they are appointed to Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate titles. The aforementioned exception will apply only when the undergraduate degree has been earned within five years prior to admission to a graduate program at UCI.
In order to establish eligibility for appointment as a UCI Teaching Assistant (TA) or Teaching Associate, students are required to pass a campus-approved test, or if eligible, by an exception.
Campus- approved tests:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Testing (TOEFL iBT) is administered by ETS in U.S. centers and abroad;
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is available in over 140 countries including the U.S.;
- Spoken Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) is available at UCI only after a student is admitted;
- Test of Oral English Proficiency (TOEP) is administered at UCI and is only an option if a student fails to pass the TOEFL iBT, IELTS or SPEAK.
Exception to the Policy
A student earned an undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction according to the World Higher Education Database within five years prior to admission to a graduate program at UCI.
Exemption to the Policy
Students who have received an undergraduate degree in an institution with English as its sole language of instruction and who are more than five years beyond degree may request an exemption to the policy; such exemption requests will be considered by the Program in Global Languages & Communication.
Students appointed to Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate positions for advanced language courses where the entire course is conducted in a language of instruction other than English are exempt from the English language proficiency requirement in this policy.
Process for requesting an assessment: The graduate program requesting an exemption for a graduate student should email TOEP@uci.edu with the following information: (1) the student's information (name, UCI ID number, email address) and (2) confirmation that the student has received an undergraduate degree in an institution with English as its sole language of instruction and is more than five years beyond degree. The staff in the Program in Global Languages and Communication will then contact the student directly to set up an appointment for an Oral Screening, which will be assessed by instructors or academic coordinators in the Program in Global Languages and Communication. The outcome of the Oral Screening will be sent to the Graduate Division within 5-7 business days of the assessment.
If the head of a unit or appropriate delegate finds sufficient grounds to believe that any graduate student appointed as a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate does not have spoken English proficiency adequate for undergraduate instruction, they must require the student to undertake a remediation process, in consultation with the Program in Global Languages & Communication and approved by the student’s academic unit, prior to additional appointment as a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate. Such a determination should be made on the grounds of inadequate proficiency alone (as indicated in student evaluations, faculty observations, or the like). This remediation process will be required regardless of how the student was initially certified for oral English proficiency (that is, regardless of earning an undergraduate degree at an institution where English was the sole language of instruction or by achieving a passing score on one of the tests noted above).
Process for consulting with the Program in Global Languages and Communication regarding a remediation process for a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate: The graduate program requesting consultation regarding a remediation process for a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate who is believed to not have spoken English proficiency adequate for undergraduate instruction should email TOEP@uci.edu with the following information: (1) the student's information (name, UCI ID number, email address), and (2) the contact information (email) of the delegate from the hiring department who is requesting the consultation and/or overseeing the remediation process for the student. The staff in the Program in Global Languages and Communication will then contact the student to set up an appointment during which the student will meet with an Academic Coordinator in the GLC Program who will review, discuss, and/or assess the student's oral English proficiency. After meeting with the student, the GLC Program will provide a recommendation for a remediation plan to the delegate from the hiring department and the student's home department/program.
Academic Unit Responsibilities
If the academic unit awards a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate appointment to an incoming graduate student who fails to be certified in English proficiency, the unit must honor its financial commitment to the student even though the student will not be allowed to serve as a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate. It is therefore advisable for units that expect incoming graduate students to serve as Teaching Assistants or Teaching Associates in their first term either to require those students be certified prior to awarding Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate appointments, by passing one of the tests noted above, or to make the Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate appointment conditional upon certification and upon meeting all other academic qualifications for employment. Units must provide clear notification of these conditions in their financial support offer letters to incoming students. Units are strongly encouraged to include the following or similar language in all financial support offer letters:
A condition of all fellowships and Teaching Assistant/Associate and Graduate Student Researcher appointments is that the student maintain satisfactory academic progress, be continuously enrolled as a full-time graduate student, and meet all other university criteria (including but not limited to adequate English language competency for Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate appointments) to receive campus-based funding. Continued employment is also contingent upon satisfactory performance as a Teaching Assistant/Associate or Graduate Student Researcher.
For more detailed information on these exams of spoken English proficiency, including the respective passing scores and how to determine if a student is eligible for an exemption, please review the English Proficiency Chart.
To help UCI graduate students strengthen their oral English proficiency, UCI offers a Program in Academic English/ESL.