22 SES 12 A, Internationalisation: Experiences and Support
The number of international students at UK universities has more than doubled in the past decade. The UK attracts 15% of the international market for postgraduate research students and is considered a global leader in this area. Recent HESA figures show the proportion of international full-time postgraduate research students increasing from 34% in 2002/3 to 50.3% now (HESA 2014). These students now represent half of the full-time UK doctoral student body and have become increasingly important, not only to the financial health and sustainability of the UK universities, but also to UK universities’ research output, knowledge base and innovation (HEPI 2010).
Similar statistics apply in other English-speaking countries, including Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. This internationalisation of the post-graduate student bodies provide both challenges and opportunities to the universities and individuals involved.
In a report on postgraduate education in the UK, Sastry (2004) expresses concerns that, “[I]n the longer term, however, it is not clear whether the benefits of study in the UK will be sufficiently profound to support indefinite expansion ... it is also likely that overseas students and their sponsors will become better informed and more demanding’ (57).
Consequently understanding the features of the research environment that contribute to the success of international post graduate students, and offering the support necessary to ensure their success is becoming increasingly important. This process can be thought of as internationalising the research environment as it applies to research students.
In the UK context, a number previous studies have examined the experience of international postgraduate research students, and have identified common factors contributing to that experience such as supervision (Archibong, 1995; Goode 2007), access to research cultures (Deem & Brehony, 2000), academic transition (Evans & Stevenson 2011), and integration with home students (Walsh, 2010). However, these studies have not considered how research environments could be improved to better support international students. In addition, these studies mixed home and international postgraduate research students together (e.g. Chiang 2003) to all postgraduate research students, generalised findings obtained from students in one or two disciplines (e.g. Borg et all 2011), focused on international postgraduate research students from a single region, such as Jordan (e.g. Zeilani et al 2011), or from a single discipline, such as nursing (e.g. Evans & Stevenson 2011) or engineering (e.g. Walsh 2010), involved many nationalities (e.g. Goode 2007), or included students at different levels of studies in small sample sizes (e.g. Archibong 1995), with a consequent lack of focus.
The study reported here conducted an investigation of the impact of the research environment on international postgraduate research students’ experience whilst pursuing full-time research degrees in science, social science, arts and humanities at a research-intensive UK university. The findings have implications for several key issues that have emerged from recent studies of international students’ experience, such as relationship with supervisor, integration with home students, research and transferable skills training, language improvement and employment and career.
The aim of this study is to help HEIs improve practice in the support of international postgraduate students and to secure their position in the increasingly competitive global education market. This study involved East Asian and Middle Eastern students, and although the findings should apply to all international Postgraduate research students, they also have more specific implications for sub-groups of postgraduate research students from these regions.
ARCHIBONG, U. 1995. Overseas students’ research supervision: their experiences and expectations. Journal of Graduate Education 1, 85-93. BORG, M., MAUNDER, R., JIANG, X., WALSH, E., FRY, H. & DI NAPOLI, R. 2010. International students and the academic acculturation process: the role of relationships in the doctoral process. Internationalisation and the student voice: Higher education perspectives. Routledge, London. CHIANG, K.XH. 2003. Learning Experiences of Doctoral Students in UK Universities. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23. 4-32 DEEM, R. & BREHONY, K. 2000. Doctoral students’ access to research cultures: are some more unequal than others? Studies in Higher Education 25, 149-165. EVANS, C. & STEVENSON, K. 2011. The experience of international nursing students studying for a PhD in the U.K: A qualitative study. BMC Nursing, 10. 1-13 GOODE, J. 2007. Empowering or disempowering the international Ph.D. student? Constructions of the dependent and independent learner. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28, 589-603. HIGHER EDUCATION STATISTICS AGENCY (HESA) 2014, Statistics – student qualifiers at UK Institutions, https://www.hesa.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_studrec&Itemid=232&mnl=14051 SASTRY, T. 2004. Postgraduate education in the United Kingdom – Executive summary. Oxford: Higher Education Policy Institute. WALSH, E. 2010. A model of research group microclimate: environmental and cultural factors affecting the experiences of overseas research students in the UK. Studies in Higher Education, 35. 545-560 ZEILANI, R. S. A., ALXNAWAFLEH, A. H. & EVANS, C. 2011. Looking back at the doctorate: A qualitative study of Jordanian graduates from PhD programs in the UK. Nursing & Health Sciences, 13, 360-365.
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