22 SES 06 A, International Students
International students’ perceptions of the host university is a crucial factor in facilitating a their smooth transition into the new education environment and increasing the opportunities for intercultural contact. (Dunne 2011, Kim 2014, Yemini et al. 2014) In the light of the recurring headlines in the international media, Muslims draw substantial academic interest, particularly for those who seek to explore and improve communication between cultures in our rapidly globalising world. The overall objective of this study is to provide an in-depth exploration of the lived experiences of international Muslim in a particular higher education institution in Ireland. The main objectives of the study are as follow; to explore the experiences of IMS in the host institution (DCU), to discuss internationalisation in DCU from the perspective of IMS.These aims are considered to be significant given the lack of research particularly in the Irish context, despite the increasing number of international students who come from countries with sizeable Muslim populations. It is also of importance in the current climate in international politics and the debate around globalisation at a broader level. This presentation reviews a host institution, namely Dublin City University (DCU) in Ireland, from the lens of the international Muslim students (IMS). The participants argued that Ireland was culturally different While discussing the host society. However, the students referred to it as a welcoming host with respect to participant’s religious faith and cultural identity. The participants also pointed to the negative image of Muslims in the host society. Nevertheless, they did not discuss identity-based incidents as a prevalent phenomenon. With particular respect to the institution, the participants covered areas such as DCU’s campus climate, facilities, services and academic staff. From the data analysis ‘institutional support’ and positive relationships with the lecturers emerged as two key factors that promote IMS’ well-being and increase their sense of belonging on campus. The Interfaith Centre, which is the space created for students’ cultural & religious practices, is perceived as signs of respect towards culturally different members of the university by the IMS. More notably, the participants discussed the geography of the campus and the central location of the Interfaith Centre as a predominant factor regarding the endorsement of accommodation of diversity. In additions to the geography of campus, students identify ‘written assignments’ and ‘research-oriented skills’ as academic challenges in the Irish HE. The findings will be discussed in the context of internationalisation of higher education with reference to drawbacks of multiculturalism on campus and the theoretical framework of institutional completeness.
The specific emphasis put on the lived experiences of international Muslim students in DCU calls for a specific research design built to serve this purpose. The study used a constructive grounded theory approach within an interpretative framework. Since this project is concerned with exploring experiences of IMS in an Irish university, it adopts a grounded theory method and uses interviewing in order to elicit participants’ lived experiences. 23 semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with IMS from undergraduate and Master’s programmes in Dublin City University (DCU) Glasnevin Campus, which were audio-taped and transcribed. A three-stage analysis was employed in line with constructivist grounded theory: initial coding, focused coding, axial & theoretical coding. NVivo was used to help organise the data during the rigorous analysis process.
The findings reveal that IMS’ experiences on campus are mainly built on three interdependent axes: identity, environment and contact. Particularly within the category identity, religion is identified as a major construct reinforcing a transnational Muslim identity and unity among Muslim students with different national and cultural backgrounds. DCU (Glasnevin) emerges as a multicultural campus in which diversity is successfully accommodated. However, a lack of intercultural contact from the perspective of IMS persists on campus perpetuated by factors such as institutional completeness and students’ cultural capital, which could additionally be related to the drawbacks of multiculturalism in third level education. The study highlights the need for an effective intercultural policy and practice instead of multicultural in Irish HEIs, to the advantage of both the international and host students.
Dunne, C. 2011 Developing an intercultural curriculum within the context of the internationalisation of higher education: terminology, typologies and power, Higher Education Research & Development. 30(5), pp.609-622. Kim, T., 2014. Internationalisation of higher education and global mobility, Comparative Education. 50(4), pp.507-509 Yemini, M. Holzmann, V. Fadilla, D. Natur, N. and Stavans, A. 2014. Israeli college students’ perceptions of internationalisation. International Studies in Sociology of Education. 24(3), pp.304-323.
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