What is an example cause and effect essay?

This is the fourth and final chapter about Cause and Effect Essays. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Set the context for a cause and effect essay

– Provide an example five-paragraph essay

– Highlight the language of cause and effect

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Chapter 4

The following five-paragraph essay has been provided for you as an example of a cause and effect essay which focuses on both the causes and the effects of a particular topic (the introduction of preliminary-year programmes at universities). The language of signalling cause and effect which was outlined in the previous chapter has been highlighted for you here. However, if you’d like to receive further practice in analysing cause and effect essays and their functions, consider downloading our worksheets for this topic. 


Cause and Effect Essay Question:

More and more English-medium universities are introducing preliminary-year programmes for non-native speakers of English. What are the causes of this, and what effects has the introduction of a preliminary year had on students?


Cause and Effect Example Essay:

The concept of the preliminary year was created as recently as the 1990s and has since become an increasingly popular addition to the traditional bachelor’s degree structure (Smith, 2017). Generally created to prepare students for the rigours of academia, the preliminary year now means that many non-native students of English are required to spend a minimum of four years to complete an otherwise three-year undergraduate degree. Although there might be many reasons for the creation of preliminary programmes, this paper argues that such courses have been primarily adopted for three reasons. Not only may the motivation for this be due to the fact that students were previously struggling to meet both the linguistic and cultural demands of their subject, but such motivation may be also because university institutions realised that a fourth year of tuition would greatly increase profit margins. As is explained in the following essay, these three factors have likely resulted in numerous effects, which have been both positive and negative for undergraduate students.

The most pedagogically valid reason that universities may have introduced preliminary year programmes is likely due to the fact that non-native students were often reported to be struggling to meet the linguistic demands of their major. In a study of 113 universities in the USA, Smith and Wesson (2000) found that dropout rates for non-native speakers of English at English-medium universities were as high as 24%. This research stimulated subsequent studies which all found that student concerns over course comprehension were a recurrent factor for these high rates (Davidson, 2001; Lee and Lee, 2004). Indeed, Johnson (2009) argues that such linguistic demands were in fact the primary reason for most cases of non-native dropouts around the turn of the millennium. In relation to this aspect, one significant effect of introducing preliminary-year programmes may be that students are now better prepared for their courses and dropout rates have decreased. In the same study, Johnson (2009) reported a decrease in dropout rates of 57% after the introduction of the preliminary year. Students have also since reported feeling more confident and comfortable with comprehending the concepts of their course (Jones, 2014), which perhaps indicates that extending bachelor’s degree programmes by a year has had a positive effect.

Another reason for the introduction of preliminary years may be due to cultural reasons. Johnson’s (2009) study, in which 117,000 students completed an online survey, also found that students reported complications with understanding cultural differences, especially between Western and Eastern institutions. Such cultural considerations may include aspects such as teacher-student dynamics (Jones, 2013) or the grading methods used by Western universities – particularly those using the British grading scheme (James and Keenan, 2014). This factor seems especially likely as a common complaint of first-year tutors prior to the introduction of the preliminary year was about non-native student grading expectations. Additional evidence for this can also be found in the fact that student stress rates have reportedly dropped by as much as 32% in universities which introduced preliminary years (Jones, 2014), with some institutions reporting that culturally-driven student expectations have since become much less of an issue (ibid.). While this may be another positive effect of the introduction of preliminary year-programmes, some studies have indicated negative outcomes as well.   

One particular motivation for introducing such courses that’s often overlooked in the literature may be purely financial. While the original intention may have been student-driven, Gleeson (2018) suspects that many universities which have considered introducing such courses have done so for the sake of profit margins. Following significant increases in tuition fees in countries such as the UK, a growth of up to £60,000,000 in annual profit is not uncommon for the larger British universities (Jones, 2014). While this may certainly benefit university staff, there are two negative effects which have been reported in the literature because of the overall increase in tuition fees. The first, as highlighted by Benton (2016), is that parents may be more likely to be more forceful in the type of course their child selects due to the increased cost of such courses. Secondly, and most importantly, students without much parental support are leaving university with considerably larger sums of debt, and this debt may be having a negative effect on alumni reports of personal wellbeing (Gleeson, 2018).     

This essay has determined that three primary motivations are likely candidates for the recent popularity in introducing preliminary-year programmes. The first motivation discussed is regarding the support of students in the linguistic demands of studying in a foreign language, in which it would appear that the preliminary year has had a positive effect in reducing student anxiety and dropout rates in this matter. The second motivation is likely regarding student understanding of cultural differences, and this would certainly appear to be evident in the fact that non-native students today have much more appropriate expectations of their tutors. The final aspect, however, has not had such positive results. As is commonly the case for most businesses in the 21st century, the need to increase profit margins may be driving universities to introduce more and more preliminary-year programmes, which appears to not only be having a negative effect on student-parent relationships, but has also meant that students have become burdened with increasingly larger debts and financial stress. Whether or not UK and US universities in particular will consider lowering their fees to alleviate these problems remains to be seen. 

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Cause and Effect Essays. Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/essay-types/cause-and-effect-essays/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

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