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Are we really communicating cross-culturally? The learning and teaching experiences of international postgraduate students on a MA programme in Cross-cultural Communication

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alina SchartnerORCiD


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This paper reports on a study investigating the learning and teaching experiences of international postgraduate students undertaking one-year taught MA programmes in Cross-cultural Communication (CCC) at a university in the North East of England. The programme under study traditionally attracts high international student numbers, mirroring latest statistics which indicate that non-UK students constitute the majority on taught postgraduate degrees at British universities – for 2011/12 this number stood at 69% nationally (UKCISA, 2013). However, whether the presence of large numbers of international students on the MA CCC necessarily means that the programme is ‘international’ remains under-explored. Thus this study asked the question ‘Are we really communication cross-culturally?’ At a time when host universities are increasingly committed to ‘internationalisation at home’ (Newcastle University, 2012), this study explored the academic adjustment experiences of international students and the role of university staff and existing support structures in this process. A specific interest was in how far ‘internationalisation at home’ has been achieved on the MA CCC. This paper integrates data from two sources: a series of semi-structured individual interviews conducted with a multinational group of international postgraduate students over the course of one academic year (N = 20), and a follow-up focus group with a group of Chinese international postgraduate students (N = 8). The data strongly suggests that the international MA CCC students are largely unprepared for ‘new’ learning and teaching practices encountered at their host university, despite an introduction to ‘UK academic culture’ on English language courses. The main adjustment challenges identified by the students include independent learning, the interactive classroom, and critical writing. From the findings, the study proposes news ideas for ongoing academic support and intercultural training for staff. References: Newcastle University (2012). Vision 2021. A World-class civic university. Retrieved from documents vision2021.pdf UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA, 2013). International students in UK higher education: Key statistics. Retrieved from

Publication metadata

Author(s): Schartner A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 7th Annual NE Universities (3 Rivers Consortium) Regional Learning and Teaching Conference

Year of Conference: 2014