A report on the teaching of academic writing in UK higher education

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


A proposal for researching standards of student writing in UK higher education was put forward by Professor David Wray and Professor Jeremy Treglown at the University of Warwick in 1999. The proposal was prompted by ‘increasing national concern about a supposed falling-off in areas such as grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as in more sophisticated aspects of writing’.1 The purpose of the project was to lay preliminary groundwork for researching student writing in higher education and for determining how writing skills can best be taught at university level. The project gained support, in the form of a Post-Doctoral Fellowship, from the Royal Literary Fund. Because it was motivated by the perception of a ‘crisis’ in the writing skills of students, the original approach to the project was to investigate student writing from a perspective of measurable standards – such as standards of grammar. Throughout the course of the research, however, this approach was shown to be less productive for studying student writing than other emerging research methodologies. The focus of the project changed, therefore, as the researcher, Dr. Lisa Ganobcsik-Williams, gained knowledge of higher education writing pedagogy as an already emergent field supported by an active and varied research culture. The report begins by examining the context in which the project arose: the ‘literacy crisis’ in student writing that is currently perceived in UK higher education. Section Two of the report discusses a survey of university staff perspectives on student writing that was undertaken as a starting point for the research, and also illustrates the challenges of attempting to conduct a comparative study of standards of student writing across decades. Section Three of the report, which surveys existing Academic Writing scholarship and pedagogical approaches, represents the project’s shift from a deficit to a developmental method of laying groundwork for the study of student writing, and posits a ‘whole institution’ approach to supporting student-writers. Section Four concludes the report by making recommendations for future funding in the area of Academic Writing pedagogy and research.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoyal Literary Fund
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • academic writing
  • higher education


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