This paper analyses the learning process of students of a Master’s course in Cooperation and Development (C&D) who attend classes in English for Academic Writing at the University of Calabria, and their awareness of competences achieved. The language objectives are to expand students’ knowledge of the main elements of spoken and written discourse in English in academic contexts with focus on specialized language in the fields of C&D. The study evaluates the ability of students to improve their competences and assess their language development using the self-assessment grid of academic language competences included in the European Language Portfolio created at the Università della Calabria, Italy. Specifically, this version of the ELP focuses on academic language and contains descriptors aimed at evaluating learners’ language competences in academic contexts. A group of 25 students participated in this didactic experience, in the second semester of the academic year 2018. Students’ oral production, interaction and academic writing skills were monitored. For the written examination students were required to write a Research Proposal (RP) showing competence in text cohesion and content coherence, appropriate use of terminology and accurate use of language structures. Following on from the acceptance of the RP, students delivered an oral presentation on the topic presented, showing ability in answering questions and expressing opinions on issues presented by other students. The concepts of autonomous learning are crucial in order to monitor students’ improvement and commitment. A contrastive analysis of data from students’ first self-assessment to the final evaluation of competences achieved by the end of the academic year was conducted.