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ESOL Objectives and Policies

The major objective of the program in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is to serve the needs of Stanford University students. A variety of courses are offered at high intermediate and advanced levels for matriculated international graduate students needing further English development to accomplish their academic and professional objectives at Stanford. 

We cannot accommodate others, such as student spouses, postdocs, visiting scholars, visiting researchers/student researchers, or others who are not matriculated in degree programs at Stanford. 

There is one exception to this policy:  By special arrangement, international Knight Fellows and their designated affiliates and Distinguished Careers Institute Fellows and their designated partners may take EFS courses after meeting with and receiving clearance from the EFS Coordinator provided there is available space. 

Note that matriculated students may only take the courses for credit--no student auditing is allowed.

Language Learning

Language learning takes place most effectively when instruction includes opportunities for both formal study and experiential acquisition. This program focuses on English for academic purposes, integrated with orientation to graduate study at a major research university. Because the student population is advanced, instructors prepare much of their own material rather than relying heavily on textbooks. Class instruction is highly interactive, with frequent work in small groups and, in five courses, numerous individual conferences with instructors.

Enrollment Policies


Because language acquisition requires commitment, full participation, and small class size, students are not allowed to audit ESOL courses. During the academic year, almost all ESOL language courses may be taken for 1-3 units. Note that students enrolled in less than 3 units are subject to the same attendance requirements and work load as students enrolled in the same course for 3 units. The purpose of the policy is to allow enrollment by graduate students who may have a limited number of units in which they can enroll. Reduced units are not allowed in the summer.


Instructors will specify course requirements in the syllabus during the first week of the quarter. The average homework load is approximately two hours outside class for each hour in class.

Improvement in English proficiency can be accomplished only with frequent, conscientious practice. Students are expected to attend at least 90% of class meetings. Any student who misses more than 10% with unexcused absences can expect to receive no credit for the course. If the course is required, the student will have to enroll in another quarter. Instructors will generally not be able to accommodate students who miss the first week of classes. If you are not enrolled for the first class meeting of a course, please contact the instructor to be sure that you will be allowed in before signing up late on AXESS.


English courses grant regular university credit which appears on student transcripts. The grading basis for ESOL courses is Satisfactory/No Credit (S/NC).

S - Satisfactory.   Met course requirements at an acceptable level.

I - Incomplete.  Usually reserved for cases of illness--must be cleared with instructor; missing work must be made up to change I to S; if not completed within one year, I changes to NC.

NC - No credit.  Unsatisfactory; the course requirements were not completed or attendance was less than 90%

Honor Code

Registration at Stanford requires agreement to uphold the Honor Code regulating honesty in academic work. This code requires some clarification.

The formal Stanford University statement on Student Conduct Policies lists "representing as one's own work the work of another" as a violation of the Honor Code. Plagiarism, the usual term for this violation, is the failure to credit the original source of ideas or words. This means that in an academic paper a writer may not use either ideas or words without citing the source adequately. Even if the violator does not understand the importance of the issue or the appropriate procedure for acknowledging ideas or work, the university considers such behavior unacceptable and may discipline violators by failure in that course or suspension from the university. Therefore, it is crucial for all students to know how to avoid a charge of plagiarism.

Additional Help

During scheduled office hours and often by appointment, instructors are available for individual help related to the course in which the student is enrolled. The instructors do not offer free editing or tutoring services outside coursework. A list of names of independent tutors who work for pay with whom a student might make his/her own arrangements is available on request. ESOL does not certify, supervise, or accredit these tutors.