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Success Factors for ‘International’ Students in Higher Education: A New Study from the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young


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This study addressed a growing, international, intercultural, educational phenomenon. Currently around 4 million ‘international’ students (ISs) are enrolled in higher education (HE) institutions outside their country of origin, an increase of 80% since 2000. Research has consistently shown that the challenges facing ISs are greater than those faced by ‘local’ students. This study widened the scope of previous investigations by integrating associations between a range of IS adjustment indices – academic grades, psychological wellbeing, and satisfaction with life in the new environment – and contributory factors such as aspects of participants’ intercultural competence, their language proficiency, and the degree, quality and patterns of social contact during their sojourn. Investigation was multimethodological, involving a questionnaire with both quantitative and qualitative responses, triangulated with the findings from semi-structured interviews over the period of study. Participants were 108 non-UK postgraduate students from a variety of countries worldwide studying in the UK. Analysis showed significant associations between participants’ language proficiency, cultural empathy, openmindedness, social initiative and degree of contact with non conational international students, and their academic achievement. There were also significant associations between language proficiency, emotional stability, amount of social contact with the host community and the quality of social support (both in the UK and from home), and participants’ psychological wellbeing during the sojourn. Participants’ general satisfaction with life in the new environment was significantly associated with their proficiency in English, their emotional stability and their degree of social contact with hosts. Results provided empirical foundation for a new model of IS adjustment, which adds considerably to our understanding of what makes for a happy and successful IS sojourn. We will detail this, and discuss its implications for researchers, educators and policy makers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 5th World Congress on Educational Sciences

Year of Conference: 2013