Pre-Sessional English Course Q&A

As the RNCM Pre-Sessional English Course wraps up for another year, we chat to its organiser Professor Jean Ammar to learn more about the programme.

What is the RNCM Pre-Sessional English Course?

The Pre-Sessional Course is a six-week programme for international students who want to come to the College but their level of English language is slightly below the level which we require them to have. So for instance if we wanted a 5.5 IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score and a student scored 5, we would welcome them on the course. The programme is designed to help students improve their language skills, but it also uniquely develops their musicology skills. So they have English language lessons with me, and they have musicology lessons with one of our tutors in music. And in those lessons they learn how to analyse a piece of music and learn how to speak and write about music. So it’s really a combination of English and musicology and really getting to know the College and preparing themselves to study in a completely new learning environment.

What is your role?

Along with teaching, my role is to develop the course year on year. Each year the course is slightly different because we always listen to the feedback we get from our students, and it’s ever-changing to take into consideration changing student needs. The course has been running for 15 years now and each year we’ve added something new to the course to improve and develop it. So it’s my job to really give these students a good start on their RNCM journey.

Do you have any highlights from running the course? 

It’s really fantastic to see the students gaining confidence and to see them really feeling a part of the RNCM family when they start their degree programme in September. And I think what’s really great is to watch the students develop over the years – to see them start as Pre-Sessional students with a developing level of English and to then watch them graduate is just fantastic. You can see the sense of achievement that these students have and how hard they’ve worked to get these degrees.

Pre-Sessional Course students graduating from the RNCM in 2019.

We’ve also had two marriages on the pre-sessional course! And they met in the pre-sessional classroom, I introduced them, so that’s quite special.

What do you hope the students get out of the course?

The students really do make friends, they really make connections, and a lot of the work we do on the course involves students working in groups or speaking to each other online and then when they actually start the course in September they’ve already made friends, and they’ve got a point of contact straight away. So along with friendship, that understanding of coming to a different learning environment helps them to make the transition really neatly from studying in their own country to studying in the UK. And of course they all know me from the course, so from September I’m still there to support them.

You’ve run the course totally online this year. How has this been?

It’s been good! Musicians are always incredibly busy, they have very busy schedules, and teaching online has enabled me to fit around those schedules. Because you can’t always move rehearsal or performance times, so I’ve been able to work around students’ schedules. And I haven’t had a problem with it at all. I’m constantly seeking new ways to develop what I do online – finding new methods, finding new approaches. It’s been great and a fantastic learning experience. I think online teaching is here to stay, I really do.

Students from this year’s cohort.

To find out more about the RNCM Pre-Sessional English Course click here.

20 August 2021