Failing quantitative literacy: But who is failing? Students or universities?

  • Jennifer Boreland
Keywords: quantitative literacy, international students, numeracy, academic literacy, undergraduate degrees


There is substantial evidence that first year business students have difficulty with quantitative subjects, and the literature examines some of the underlying causes of poor results in subjects such as accounting, business statistics and economics. Whilst a range of reasons for poor student performance in these subjects generally have been posited, there appears to be little research into the experience of international students in these subjects, despite the large number enrolled in business degrees. For example, what impact might English language proficiency (ELP) have on quantitative literacy? Is there an intersection between these two? If they do indeed intersect, as is posited by this author, then it becomes important to determine whether the English entry standards set by Universities for entry to undergraduate business degrees are appropriate or whether they are setting international students up for failure. While there is a plethora of research about how universities are attempting to assure international student preparedness through English language proficiency levels, there is a void of research on how this relates to quantitative subjects in business degrees. This paper argues that there is a need to address this issue through further research into the intersection between ELP and quantitative literacy to ensure Universities make informed decisions about entry standards and thus fulfil their obligations to assure that all students are appropriately equipped to participate successfully in their course. Further, if there is evidence of a correlation between ELP and quantitative literacy, there are implications for curriculum design, teaching and learning and approaches to learning support which will provide equitable opportunities for international students to participate successfully in their studies.
How to Cite
BorelandJ. (2016). Failing quantitative literacy: But who is failing? Students or universities?. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 10(1), A57-A68. Retrieved from