Over the last 10 years the higher education sector has undergone a myriad of changes both in student demographics and the influx of international students. With these changes, concerns about the ability of students to meet the English language and academic demands of tertiary study have come to the forefront. This paper reports on a project of embedding academic literacy into nine units across four disciplines, which spanned the duration of a decade. The paper documents the process by which the Unit Support Program (USP) evolved from a discipline-based reading program in a university preparation context to an embedded, integrated and team-taught approach in the university mainstream. It sought to determine whether the introduction of the program improved student learning in the discipline, specifically in English language and academic literacy development. Using data drawn from over 2500 students relating to progression rates, final grades, participation levels, and qualitative data relating to student and staff perceptions, this longitudinal study demonstrated a positive relationship between embedding academic literacy in the disciplines and student learning. The added benefit of academic socialisation for staff is also a reported result of this study. Although significant ongoing institutional support is needed, this paper advocates that an embedded, integrated and team-taught model should be incorporated into the first year of study.

Using a case study approach, this paper firstly explains the rationale to embed language and academic literacy development within disciplinary contexts; the framework from which the Unit Specific Model emanated; and the team teaching approach used in the delivery of the Unit Support Program (USP) across a variety of disciplines. It considers the comparative results for both participating and non-participating groups, and the impact of collaboration across the faculty on the success of USP. Finally the paper recommends strategies for the long term sustainability of these programs.