Mores mean less

December 10, 2004

I was not surprised to read about the problems international students face in trying to make contact with British students ("UK mores alienate foreigners", December 3).

My research indicates that international students often have high expectations of what they will achieve during their stay, not least a significant improvement in their English through contact with British students. But the features of British "student-speak", with its unfamiliar accents and allusions, make it difficult to decode, even by international students with a high level of competence in English.

Overseas students often fare better if they join student-run societies, or if they are able to take advantage of initiatives, such as being paired with a British student who wants to learn a language from a native speaker.

In some ways, British universities are victims of their own success. Having marketed British higher education strongly, universities are faced with large numbers of students from particular countries who tend to study the same subjects and move around the university in their nationality groups, which does not aid integration. But if international students are disappointed by their failure to interact more with British ones, they can take comfort from the fact that they do have the opportunity to mix with students from a number of other countries and enjoy the benefits this can bring.

Michael Hughes
University of Kent

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