The expected transition in higher education from students’ school-level assignments to university-level assignments provides challenges and development prospects for students and the academic world. Academic support programs have been introduced in South African higher universities to assist under-prepared university students to benefit from lectures, writing centers, and tutorials. However, the problem of poor academic writing by university students persists. The study aimed to examine students’ academic writing difficulties. English Second Language (ESL) students’ university-level writing experience, and the impact of a collaborative approach between a lecturer and a South African university writing center, to support ESL students with their academic writing, was explored. The study used the Scaffolding theory as a lens. The mixed methods approach was used, with data collected in three phases, comprising a pretest, posttest, and questionnaire. A sample of 216 first-year Senior Phase and FET students were chosen. Findings revealed that ESL students experienced challenges in academic writing skills such as structure, organization, coherence, table of contents, paraphrasing, referencing, and in-text citations. The collaborative intervention between a lecturer and the writing center assisted students to progress in their academic writing. The paper recommends exploring more collaborative strategies between lecturers and writing centers, to optimally support students.
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