Far too often, universities assume that a larger proportion of international students automatically “improves students’ satisfaction”, “yields an integrated student community” and “leads to global skills”.
That is according to How internationalised is your university? From structural indicators to an agenda for intertegration, produced by researchers at Warwick Applied Linguistics.
In reality, the evidence suggests that without “an agenda for integration”, “the greater the proportion of non-UK students in the total student population, the less positive the student experience ratings are”.
Members of large national cohorts which are not picked up in the simple distinction between “home” and “international” students can impact negatively on the “quality of interaction between people of different backgrounds”, the report says, while “global skills” do not develop without “mixed-nationality group work” or integration policies “applied to the classroom as well as the campus”.
Though structural and numerical factors are important, the authors point to “a range of reports [which] have repeatedly argued that there are low levels of intermixing in further and higher education communities”.
Despite the widespread “race for international students/staff/partners, less attention seems to have been paid to the social viability of internationalising a university’s community,” the researchers conclude.
Universities which really want to maximise the benefits of internationalisation, including students graduating with the global skills employers are crying out for, need to pay far more attention to the “‘intercultural’ component, which takes into account the social complexity of truly internationalised university communities”.