Cover of Understanding Writing Transfer
Buy in Print

ISBN: 9781620365854

January 2017 | Stylus Publishing

Some Additional Context: Three Sites, One Global Project

The project described in Chapter 8 included three sites: The University of Johannesburg, South Africa, The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and George Washington University in Washington DC, USA. The three institutions vary widely in terms of their local histories regarding issues of access, their entering student populations, and the level of resources available to faculty and students for supporting effective transitions into university writing.

Origins and Enrollment

University of Johannesburg, South Africa National University of Ireland, Maynooth George Washington University, USA
Large, comprehensive, urban institution.

Established in 2005 with the merger of Rand Afrikaans University and two previously disadvantaged institutions – Technikon Witwatersrand and the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University.

Enrolment is approximately 48,000 students, 43,000 of whom are undergraduates. Upwards of 10,000 first-year students are admitted each year.

Nine faculties and 90 departments; both academic degrees and vocational/ technical diplomas are offered.

Traces its origins back to the foundation of St Patrick’s College- Ireland’s second oldest university – in 1875. NUI Maynooth was established under the Irish 1997 Universities Act as an autonomous member of the National University of Ireland.


Enrolment is approximately 8,800 students.


Three faculties and 26 academic departments offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses

Private university located in downtown Washington DC.

Originally founded in 1824.




Its current Enrolment is approximately 10,000 undergraduate and 15,000 graduate students.

One of the most expensive schools in the US.


Access and Participation

University of Johannesburg, South Africa National University of Ireland, Maynooth George Washington University, USA
UJ aspires to be “a premier, embracing African city university.”

Access to higher education is a key issue in the country because of the need to provide redress for the injustices of the past and to develop the high level skills required for social and economic development.

Although huge increases in enrolment have occurred over the past decade to accommodate previously excluded groups, throughput rates continue to be poor.   Researchers ascribe these results to a lack of alignment between high school and college, and admission tests indicate a lack of preparedness for university level work.

To be considered for university enrolment, students must pass at least seven subjects in high school, a pass being 30% in some subjects and 40% in others.

The majority of students at UJ – 65% – are first generation. English is the second, third, or fourth language of 49.1%. Nearly one third worry about food, and 60% fear that lack of money will prevent them from graduating.


Historically, student participation in higher education in Ireland has been low.     In 1960 only 5% of 18 year olds went on to higher education. Today, as a result of government and policy initiatives over the last thirty years, 65% of students proceed to third level. Ireland now ranks between 9th and 12th in OECD terms with reference to the higher educational attainment levels of its adult population and 5th highest of all OECD countries in terms of the higher educational attainment levels of young adults aged 25 to 34 in 2007.

As in the past, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are the least likely to go to college despite expanded opportunities in recent decades.  These disparities continue to represent a challenge for Irish education policy makers.

At NUI Maynooth national sentiment for increasing access is echoed in the University’s recently published strategic plan (2012-2017).   Strategic actions involve strengthening access programmes, responding to new needs, ensuring an inclusive curriculum, and mainstreaming and integrating student support.

NUI Maynooth is particularly dedicated to serving non-traditional groups; 20% of its students come from non-traditional groups, such as mature entry students (students over 23 years of age) and access students (students entering through alternative routes due to a designated disadvantaged background).

The Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) cohort involved in this study represent a more traditional and privileged student profile.

The annual cost of GW is $56,310.

Demographically, 62% of GW undergraduates are white, 56% are women, 7% are international students, and almost all of them are of traditional age, coming to college directly from high school.

Over 70% of all undergraduates live in dorms, nearly all students spend some time abroad, and the first-year retention rate into the sophomore year is 94%.

GW undergraduates represent all 50 states and 125 countries.

33% of the undergraduate applicants to GW are accepted.

Within this broader context, the WLP is a highly selective academic program comprised of first-year women. Open only to those who have already been accepted into the university, WLP typically receives 650 applicants for approximately 70 slots. 100% of the WLP cohort is entering university from high school and as a living learning community 100% of the WLP cohort lives together in the dorms. These are highly prepared, highly supported, and highly performing students.


Support for Writing

University of Johannesburg, South Africa National University of Ireland, Maynooth George Washington University, USA
At UJ there is no university-wide approach to writing development. There is no literacy requirement for graduation and no first-year course (or other writing courses) which all students are obliged to take.

The Academic Development Center (ADC) offers academic literacies courses to some of the university’s 10,000 first year students on behalf of three of the nine faculties. Students in these courses typically attend one lecture per week, delivered by a senior member of ADC, followed by two or three tutorials facilitated by a tutor.

A small number of faculties have put their own measures in place to meet the needs of students who do not meet minimum requirements.

The Faculty of Humanities dropped its academic literacies course for extended degree students and now requires individual lecturers to incorporate academic reading and writing into their own teaching.

The English Department offers an academic literacies course for its students, and some of the other departments in the faculty require their students to take it as well.

Students on each of the university’s four campuses have access to a writing center.

Since September 2011 the University has a Writing Centre which serves all students. However, in NUI Maynooth there is no university-wide compulsory writing courses or WID courses. Composition courses, where they exist, are nascent and department-led.

Increasingly, academic departments will include a generic ‘writing workshop’ or a discipline-specific writing workshop into the modules that they offer but these tend to be one off.

Some departments have started to offer more substantial interventions, which would be similar to what we understand as a typical writing course but this, like the workshops, is department driven and not yet part of a university-wide approach.

However, there is growing emphasis on oral and written communication skills across the faculties as part of the University’s Curriculum Commission activity and as part of its Graduate Attributes statement. This move comes with the support of university senior management and in a manner which is underpinned with institutional, sectoral and national policies and strategic planning.

At GW, all incoming students take a 4 credit first-year writing course; these courses are capped at a maximum of 15 students per class.

In order to complete their literacy requirement, before graduating all students must also take two additional Writing in the Disciplines (WID) courses through their majors.

All GW students, undergraduate and graduate, also have access to the university writing center, which councils thousands of students annually.

The WLP is comprised of 4 cohorts of between 15 – 20 students, each focusing on a particular subject area

Each semester they take a discipline specific course related to their field of study along with a writing intensive humanities course in the fall and the required writing course in the spring.

Each cohort is led by a regular full-time faculty member; the humanities and writing courses are taught by regular full time faculty of the writing program; each cohort has its own TA.