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The role of cross cultural education in the adjustment of international postgraduate students to life and study at a UK University

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young, Dr Peter Sercombe


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The ‘internationalising’ university represents one of the most vibrant and researched current arenas for intercultural dialogue, exchange, struggle and contestation (Andrade, 2006). This presentation describes an approach by which intercultural effectiveness emerges among a group of ‘international’ postgraduate students studying for an MA in Cross Cultural Communication (CCC) at a UK university. The approach described explicitly attempts to resist the reification and essentailisation of notions of culture and identity. We also report on a study comparing the adaptation of a group of these CCC students with a closely comparable group who were not. This study involved a total of 83 students from a variety of countries in Asia, Europe and North America, and used a range of instruments and techniques including psychometric surveys, observation, diaries and semi-structured interviews to explore interrelationships between a broad number of adaptation indices. Findings indicated that CCC students scored more highly, to a significant degree, across a range of adjustment indices. Their overall academic achievement (grades for both taught and research elements of their degrees) were significantly higher than those for the comparison group. CCC students also tended to exhibit higher levels of characteristics associated with intercultural effectiveness such as open-mindedness and empathy, and appeared to have a higher degree of social contact with other non-conational ‘international’ students, as well as with members of the host community. Their overall levels of satisfaction with life in their new environment were also higher. Their patterns of adjustment (discerned from interviews and diaries) also show deeper levels of reflection on and engagement with processes of adjustment and exchange, chiefly with other, co-national or non-conational, ‘international students (Young et al, 2012). We discuss these findings in relation to the potentially pivotal role of cross/intercultural effectiveness in the internationalisation of higher education in the UK and worldwide, and consider how it might contribute to the current drive to make ‘every student an international student’. References Andrade, M.S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5 (2), 131-54.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Sercombe PG

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: International Association of Language and Intercultural Communication

Year of Conference: 2012