Learning, Living and Working Experiences of International Postgraduate Students at a Scottish University

Article excerpt

International students have, for many years, sought higher education in the United Kingdom (UK) and other major English-speaking destinations (MESDs). Recently, a combination of government initiatives, development of the higher education sector and the changes in funding of higher education in the UK have encouraged universities to give greater focus to attracting overseas students. This article presents initial findings of a longitudinal study based on the experiences of a group of international students studying 1-year master's degrees in the area of hospitality management and tourism at a Scottish university. Conducted during students' orientation period, this research aimed to identify students' initial expectations and concerns regarding their forthcoming academic experience. It was found that students were expecting the period of study to be academically challenging yet ultimately rewarding, with many students expressing concerns regarding their level of English language proficiency. Additionally, this research attempted to identify this cohort of students' concerns and issues regarding their domestic or living situation and, while many students professed to having or expecting no living issues, the concepts of being homesick and financially stretched were raised. Finally, this research examined students' plans regarding becoming involved in part-time employment while studying and it was found that almost three quarters of this cohort planed to get a part-time job during their educational experience. This article presents an initial perspective of a period of study held by one group of international master's students studying hospitality and tourism management at a Scottish university and provides the basis for ongoing research in this area.

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Universities in Britain and the other major English-speaking destinations (MESDs) of the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have a history of hosting multinational, multicultural and multi-ethnic student communities from a broad range of overseas nations. While many higher education establishments in MESD countries recognise and celebrate this diversity, the international student cohort has been relatively small in comparison with their domestic peers. Indeed, in the UK, which is one of the most popular destinations for international students, the overwhelming majority of students and academics are domestic (Higher Education Statistics Agency [HESA], 2006). Therefore the pedagogic culture, reflected in teaching policies and practices, of such universities have tended to reflect the needs of the majority and in the UK have stemmed from the core characteristics of the British education system (Barnett, 1997). However, a combination of government initiatives, recent development of the higher education sector and the changes in funding of higher education in the UK have encouraged universities to give greater focus to attracting overseas students as a means of increasing revenue (Lengkeek & Platenkamp, 2004). From a strategic perspective, this aspiration translates into a range of policies and practices designed to enable UK universities to compete effectively in a highly competitive marketplace (Universities UK, 2005).

This article presents findings based on the experiences of a group of international students studying one year master's degrees in the area of hospitality management and tourism at a Scottish university. Specifically, this research aimed to identify students' initial expectations and concerns regarding their learning experience, their domestic or living experience and their plans regarding becoming involved in part-time employment while studying.

The Demand for and Supply of Western Education

The internationalisation of higher education, through student mobility from their home country to study abroad, has a history dating back to the medieval times in Europe and has also been widespread in more recent times as a reflection of both colonial relationships and the draw of western science and learning. …