Over here, but not over the moon, study shows

March 10, 2011

It is time to stop seeing international students as "problems" and start seeing them as assets to internationalisation, the Going Global conference in Hong Kong will hear.

While almost one in five students on UK campuses now comes from overseas, the results of the National Student Survey show that the country has some way to go in improving their experience, the British Council event will hear this week.

An analysis of NSS results conducted as part of a Higher Education Academy project has found that overseas students are generally less satisfied than domestic students.

Janette Ryan, director of the HEA's Teaching International Students Project, said the study was the first to compare NSS results in this way.

"International students were, on average, about five percentage points less satisfied than home students, which shows we still have some work to do," she said.

The project, which began last year, has highlighted a number of "pressure points", including language difficulties and plagiarism. Dr Ryan and her colleagues have developed the HEA's International Student Lifecycle Resources Bank, which summarises the research evidence in each area and suggests strategies for addressing difficulties.

According to the resource bank's website, international students may understand 50 per cent or less of lectures at the start of their studies.

"We don't want to make stereotyped judgements but most international students will struggle with language, particularly in the first six months of the course," Dr Ryan said.

Her interest in the area stems from her own experiences as an international student. After her first degree in Australia in Chinese language and history, she studied as a postgraduate in China, where she says she initially felt entirely "lost".

She expected to find it easy to adjust to studying towards a further degree in the UK but was surprised to discover some difficulties - for example, the level of cultural knowledge about the UK that was assumed in lectures.

"It is not just about language; it is all the background knowledge you don't have about that culture," she said.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

• For full coverage of Going Global, which is taking place on 11-12 March, see www. timeshighereducation.co.uk and next week's issue of Times Higher Education.

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