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 all eight AOU branches and a joint BA Programme (Hons.) with Business in five branches. As of the first semester 2012, FLS started offering an MA Programme in English Literature.Other branches are in the process of seeking local accreditation prior to offering the programme. The three programmes are based on courses derived from the Open University UK and use textbooks, support materials, and approaches of the highest international standards. Demand on the three prestigious programmes is growing, since they are relevant not only to students’ intellectual and knowledge growth, but also to their career needs.
To enhance the student’s English in the said programmes, FLS also houses the English Language Unit which is primarily responsible for both the Orientation & Foundation programmes. These two programmes, which the students normally take in their first-year, are tailored for students who enroll 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 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. Of late, the English Language Unit has been interested with running, supervising and administering the Arabic language courses. Such courses cores “Communication Skills in Arabic I & II, in addition to Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL).
FLS prides itself on having tutors who are extremely competent in methods of open and blended learning, and of the material taught in their courses. They constantly challenge their students to new horizons of thinking and knowledge. Beyond their competence in their fields of specialisation and diligence, however, the tutors are also extremely supportive of students, always going out of their way to make students feel welcome and to offer prompt assistance when needed. FLS will continue to hire outstanding tutors, with relevant experience and expertise.
Though still young with only fifteen years in action, FLS is still growing and developing with the aim of both matching developments in our fast-changing world, and catering to the diverse and ever-expanding needs of learners, wherever they are and no matter what their level in English is. A host of new programmes and activities is in the making, and they will be announced in due time.
FLS is proud of the fact that it is strongly affiliated with the OU-UK which validates, accredits and assesses FLS education. And this, indeed, is a major source of our strength. But FLS also seeks partnerships with other HE institutions in the region with similar vision and mission, and international institutions from both East and West. In a world which has become visibly multicultural and global, global partnerships are a must – sharing experience and cooperating on several specific initiatives, projects and programmes.
FLS faculty members devote a lot of time to tutoring. After all, helping our students learn, develop and excel is our major task. Nevertheless, FLS tutors devote additional time and effort to scientific research, which is part and parcel of the mission of AOU. They author and publish individual and joint research in refereed journals of the best standards. Recently, however, FLS has been zeroing in on institutional research, forming research teams to tackle research in four major domains: cross-language, cross-cultural, comparative and English-skills studies. While much of the research focuses on knowledge that is viable in the international arena (as any research should), much of it also aims to serve concerns of the Arab-Islamic nation – with specific reference to the Arabic language, Arabic literature and Arab culture. After all, our university is a significant “pan-Arab” initiative, established (in part) with the aim of espousing matters directly pertaining to the Arab nation.
FLS, like AOU at large, attracts students with great aspirations who value independent, open education. There is no doubt that face-to-face learning has its own value. But it also has its limitations. Too much of it tends to make students too reliant on tutors, which results in spoon-feeding and dependence on personal contact. This is why FLS champions on-line independent learning which not only weans students from tutors, but also builds on students’ own motivation to learn. Self-learning is the most effective form of learning because, among other things, it capitalises on students wanting to learn. But FLS, like AOU again, offers both face-to-face (25%) and self-learning (75%) – what we affectionately refer to as blended learning. Many of our students are mature students, who at once pursue a career and seek continuous growth.