Skip main navigation

Xiao’s story can help inspire other learners whose first language is not English

The MOOC team from the University of Reading talks about the academic journey of one of their former international students, Xiao, and how studying English has helped him develop writing skills, vocabulary and grammar.


Former international student from the University of Reading

For students whose first language is not English, improving their language skills is the first step on the path to following a university course in English. Writing a university essay or a Master’s level dissertation (10,000 words) or even a PhD (50,000 words) is difficult enough, even in one’s native language. For those starting off with a low level of English, therefore, it’s a considerable challenge to reach the standard required to undertake a university course.

However, with the right guidance and a lot of hard work, it can be done. A successful example is Xiao Liang, an international student from China.

Xiao started his higher education at the University of Reading, and progressed from foundation (pre-university level) studies to doing a PhD. After finishing high school in Beijing, Xiao came to the UK to follow an English for Academic Purposes course at Reading. Xiao’s English was very basic at that time, but he worked hard at improving it, particularly his writing skills. He then progressed onto the University of Reading’s one-year International Foundation Programme, before staying at Reading to complete a 3 year BSc in Biotechnology. Xiao then moved to the USA, where he completed an MSc in Comparative Pathology. In 2013, Xiao started a PhD in Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology at Michigan State University. “However far I go, the language course at Reading really was my starting point” says Xiao.

Those of you signed up for this free online course will be following the first steps that Xiao took in developing his academic writing skills. You’ll even look at examples of Xiao’s writing to see how it changed, as you learn the same lessons that he did. The difference is, of course, that you’ll be doing it online, rather than face to face.

The world of higher education has moved on since Xiao started his studies. Here at Reading, we’ve been exploring different ways of providing online English language support to students, and creating this MOOC has given us the chance to consolidate all the expertise we’ve gained in this area over the last few years. We’re really pleased to offer this free course and hope you’ll start your journey with us and thousands of other learners across the world.

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education

Related stories on FutureLearn