07 SES 09 B, Promoting Social Justice in Higher Education
Increasing student mobility worldwide, in particular from South Asian countries to western countries has made the international student cohort a prominent group within higher education programs. The increase in intake of international students is primarily due to the economic benefits accrued by the host organisations (Snow- Andrade, 2006; Lee, 2013). However, such an increase has also led to a higher level of challenges that need to be comprehended by host organisations, for example, the difference regarding educational experience, the problems of cultural differences, and social practices that are often not visible. As scholars (Snow- Andrade, 2006; Eaves, 2011; Kelly & Morgan, 2012) note, there are adjustment issues faced by these students that need to be dealt with to offer a successful program to these students. As research (Kim & Duff, 2012; Wu, Garza & Guzman, 2015; Schartner, 2015) indicates, there are issues of isolation and loneliness that impact on the academic performance of international students. Besides, often these students are considered to be deficit regarding educational requirements which leads to academic exclusion from domestic student groups.
Drawing on these perspectives, as noted above this study examines data collected from Masters students enrolled in a local Australian university to explore the research question, what intercultural and academic expectations do western universities have of the international students and what are the expectations of the students?
The study applies the theories of Foucault (1972; 1991), to argue how governmentality, and power operate through discourses to include and exclude, marginalise or embrace difference. Foucault’s notions of governmentality explains how privilege operates through policies, procedures and organisational rules. The mentalities of government as far as universities are concerned comprises of a system of rational practices that serve to institute specific policies, specific discourses while excluding others that are not considered relevant. Policy statements on websites depict certain regularities, logic, strategy (Foucault, 1991, p. 75) and become regimes of practice that promote taken for granted assumptions about being an international student. For Foucault (1982), government, besides referring to political structures also deals with “the conduct of individuals or groups” (p. 790); it comprises activities that shape desired behaviour, or forms identities that are required by a system. Either internally through individual monitoring or in association with an institution, these activities as an art of government determine how individuation and normalisation occur. The conduct of conduct operates through university governance to determine websites that are suitable for international students and also defines the academic program as ideal for a particular group of students. Along with governmentality, this study draws on Foucault’s notion of discourse, to examine how specific practices produce knowledge and truth. Statements, as Foucault (1972) observes, are a set of practices that include or exclude, licence the appropriate forms of doing and being an international student. Power/knowledge operate to determine who is in a position to speak and whose knowledges are valued and promoted.
In this context, the development of universities as multicultural centres illustrates an urgent need for intercultural understanding. Intercultural competence refers to interpersonal interactions between individuals, the ability to interact effectively with others (Deardorff, 2006), but if the system is set to conform to certain accepted practices over others, then, some forms of intercultural transfers both in academic programs and in social, cultural interactions are preferred over others. Often in universities, academic and cultural knowledges are provided. However, these do not represent intercultural competence. This study aims to understand the complexity that surrounds the discourses of inclusion, exclusion and thereby to comprehend student experiences regarding belonging, academic achievement, acculturation and intercultural awareness.
The study draws on qualitative, interpretive research methodology that examines how discourses are depicted in university websites and participant responses. Although the study is conducted in Australia, the implications of the study are relevant to all western contexts and academic institutions that deal with international students. Foucault’s (1972) concept of discourse assists in examining how discourses illustrate power relationships, the statements that are permitted and accepted and those that are excluded. Three Australian university websites that have a webpage on international student information are examined for the information these provide to international students. Instead of a fine-grained textual analysis, the websites were broadly studied for the overarching themes the specific webpage offers to the student. Further, the study examines interviews conducted with international students in the ongoing study that started in semester 2 of 2015. Interviews with students (nx10) in 2015, (nx5) in 2016, (n x 10) in semester one, 2017 and (n x 7) in semester two, 2017, in all 32 students were conducted. Interview data and website data were carefully read and re-read to be coded and categorised into the following themes: exclusion/ inclusion and adjustment; isolation, belonging, and achievement. Taking on Willig’s (2003) framework, a six-step stage is adopted. Stage one is framed on the research question, what intercultural and academic expectations are present in websites for international students and what expectations do the students have? Textual discourse is analysed to examine how expectations are constructed and what type of expectations are presented by students. Stage two discusses how the stage one discourses are set within the larger social, cultural discourses. Examining the social, cultural, historical context of the discourses of the university websites and those of the students, assists in a deeper understanding of how the discursive object is constituted and comprehended. Stage three consists of orientation which involves a close analysis of the purpose of reference, here the construction of the international student by websites, and academic, social, cultural expectations by the students. Stage four examines how discourses construct the subject, in what manner they are included or excluded, in short being formed as the subject. Stage five examines how discursive constructions of subjects occur and how discourses, represent the world (Willig, 2003). Stage six deals with how discourses create a particular version of reality and this stage is determined by how the websites constructed the students and how they constructed themselves.
Analysis of data illustrates subtle exclusion of intercultural themes within websites and discourses of being a successful student does not include being interculturally competent. The host country culture is normalised with the result that often the international student is expected to become culturally competent, their identities are fixed in specific ways that deem them foreign, and they are expected to assimilate into the academic culture. Interviews with the students consolidated the analysis of the websites. Analysis of interviews illustrates that the discourse surrounding the students is one of adjustment and acculturation that strongly focuses on the psychological orientation to the cultural and academic needs of the host country. Students discussed how they were expected to possess language proficiency of the host country, an expectation of singular engagement in the host country’s program as the academic culture was imagined as given and static. Analysis of interview data also illustrated agency when some students made their voice heard as their concerns were noted, and there was a more significant experience of inclusion and belonging. The expected outcomes of this study are to argue that intercultural and academic competence needs to be perceived as multidimensional, fluid and dynamic. Further, the study draws on Marginson (2014) to discuss that a paradigm shift is required: instead of perceiving the international student as possessing a deficit because they have different standpoints and, as needing adjustment to local requirements, international education needs to be viewed as self- formation. In terms of websites, the study indicates the need for including explicit information on intercultural competencies and expectations that can prepare the students, international and domestic on acceptance and self- formation.
Deardorff, D. (2006). Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(3) , 241- 266. Doi: 10.1177/1028315306287002 Eaves, M. (2011). The relevance of learning styles for international pedagogy in higher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 17(6), 677- 691. Doi: 10.1080/13540602.2011.625143 Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 777-795. Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality (pp. 73-86). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. New York: Pantheon Books. Kelly, P., & Moogan, Y. (2012). Culture shock and higher education performance: Implications for teaching. Higher Education Quarterly, 66(1), 24-46. 10.1111/j.1468-2273.2011.00505.x Kim, J., & P. Duff. (2012). The Language of Socialization and Identity Negotiations of Generation 1.5 Korean-Canadian University Students. TESL Canada Journal, 29 (6): 81–96. Doi: 10.18806/tesl.v29i0.1111 Lee, J. J. (2013).The False Halo of Internationalization. International Higher Education, 72 (Summer) 5–7. Doi: 10.6017/ihe.2013.72.6101 Marginson, S. (2014). Student self- formation in international education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(1), 6-22. Doi: 0.1177/1028315313513036 Schartner, A. (2015). You cannot talk with all of the strangers in a pub’: a longitudinal case study of international postgraduate students’ social ties at a British university. Higher Education 69 (2), 225-241. Doi: 10.1007/s10734-014-9771-8 Snow- Andrade, M. (2006). International students in English- speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(20, 131- 154. DOI: 10.1177/1475240906065589 Willig, C. (2003), ‘Discourse Analysis” in J.A. Smith (ed.) Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods, Chapter 8, pp. 159-183, Sage Publications, London Wu, H-P., Garza, E & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, pp- 1-9. Doi: 10.1155/2015/202753
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