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How falling standards of English are forcing colleges into drastic action

By Damien O'Neill

Undergraduates across the UK are having difficulty mastering the basic rules of the English language, it has emerged.

And in a bid to tackle the problem in Northern Ireland, the University of Ulster has revealed plans to introduce literacy schemes across its campuses.

A new diary of mistakes, published by Doctor Bernard Lamb, a reader in genetics at Imperial College, London, highlights some of the errors students are making when it comes to spelling.

Dr Lamb, a distinguished don, claimed that undergraduates across the UK have a poorer grasp of English than some foreign students and said that he published the diary - Errors In The English Of Highly Selected Undergraduates - in a bid to raise the standard of English used.

According to the diary, UK-born students are producing essays littered with errors such as 'there' instead of 'their' and 'bean' instead of 'been'.

Aware this was becoming a problem, the University Of Ulster has carried out research into the problem by studying examination scripts across all faculties.

As a result, Professor Robert Welsh, Dean of the University's Faculty of Arts, implemented the scheme Raising the Grade, which saw students having tuition classes in the use of English.

The university aims to roll the scheme out across its faculties and hopes to lead the way in tackling the growing problem.

Professor Loreto Todd at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, who has undertaken research into the use of language and literacy, said that over the past 25 years there had been a "significant" drop in the command of English being used.

"I was always told the use of grammar and punctuation was always important but in recent years, when I mark scripts, this does not seem to be the case.

"For instance, I once marked a script with no other punctuation other than a dash and this is not acceptable," she said. "Undergraduates must not write as they speak, and parents should not encourage children to do so, as this seems to be a recurring trend."

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