Ban country clubs so foreign students mix

‘Social engineering’ might be needed to help integrate international students, Sheffield pro v-c says

April 4, 2013

Universities might look to ban country-specific student societies to ensure that international students integrate with their British counterparts, it has been suggested.

Paul White, pro vice-chancellor for learning and teaching at the University of Sheffield, told a conference that although it might be “social engineering”, such action could build bridges between different groups.

At City College in Thessaloniki, Greece, an “international faculty” of Sheffield that offers the university’s degrees, national student societies are banned, Professor White told a Westminster Higher Education Forum conference on internationalisation in London.

“They want all the students from the Balkan region not to feel they are Serbs or Kosovans or Macedonians…It’s an interesting idea; I’m just throwing it out there as one example”, he said, of policies that could promote integration.

Universities were generally successful in helping their students to form friendship groups while studying, he argued.

“The problem is that in doing so we may create closed communities of students who don’t interact with each other,” he said, adding that Chinese, Indian and British students often stayed in their own groups.

Institutions should get these communities to mingle, and “that takes us into the realm of social engineering to an extent”, Professor White told the event on 21 March.

“There are simple things we can do by not allowing students just to choose their own class groups and also to put them into mixed communities” when distributing accommodation, he added.

He also questioned how many British or international students wanted to broaden their cultural horizons. Some of the latter group “don’t really want to get the true international experience. They want to extract the knowledge dissemination of the institution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alex Bols, executive director of the 1994 Group of small, research-intensive universities, suggested that overseas students may end up isolated because they often arrive a week earlier than UK peers and so form their first friendships with other international students.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (1)

While agreeing with some of the fundamental tenets of this article (that is, institutions do need to consider issues surrounding the successful integration of students, as well as questioning the motivation of students to "get the true international experience"), I caution against a blanket 'ban' on ethnic based groups on campus. It appears to me that the need for integration is perhaps taking precedent over other acculturation and transition challenges faced by students. Ethnic groups can perform a valuable role in transitioning and supporting a new student, not least by affirming the student's 'home' identity within a new host culture (although many other benefits exist). Indeed, if you look at Berry's model of acculturation, an ideal is the validation of both home and host identities in the new environment. Presenting students with an opportunity to form home culture students does not, of itself, prevent international students from engaging with local students. Indeed, such groups can enhance such interaction. However, I do believe that the groups need to be complemented by what Professor White refers to as 'socially engineered' mixed groups - especially in class, but also in the social domain. An important part of the puzzle is, of course, the dispositions and attitudes brought to the interaction by local students - and also institutional structures (such as assessment policy and pedagogical practice), which can often militate against meaningful intercultural interactions occurring.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands