Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

Who Do You Think You Are? Profile of International Students in a Private HE Provider Pathway Program: Implications for International Education

Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

Who Do You Think You Are? Profile of International Students in a Private HE Provider Pathway Program: Implications for International Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

In recent decades, higher education (HE) in Australia has undergone enormous changes, not least of which is the composition of the student population, most markedly reflected in the large numbers of international students who avail themselves of pathway programs offered by private HE providers. The significance of the international student market in Australia, as elsewhere, means that research in this area is of great importance for educational institutions generally, and for private HE providers in particular, not only in economic terms, but also to understand their clientele (the students) in broader terms, in order to gain in-depth knowledge about what constitutes HE today. This case study examines the current profile of international students in a private HE provider pathway program in Sydney, Australia. What emerges is a profile of a young single adult, mainly of Asian descent, not entirely confident of the level of his/her English language but aware of the linguistic currency it represents and its impact on classroom dynamics. Such a student attaches great importance to the student-teacher relationship. Due to the restricted nature of the preliminary findings within a very specific location, at this stage inferences and conclusions can only be tentative.

Keywords

international students, private HE providers, pathway programs, Australia

Introduction

In recent decades, Australia has become a major destination for international students pursuing educational opportunities, to the extent that it is considered, in company with the USA and the UK, one of the most prolific in international education activity (Arkoudis & Tran, 2007). In the higher education sector, the largest volumes of students come from specific markets, especially China (40.6%) (Australia Education International, 2012). There is a heavy reliance of Australian universities on international students. For example, at Macquarie University these students formed 33.6% of the total student population in 2010 (ABS, 2011), and more recently they increased to 35% (My University, 2012); 80% of the fee revenue of Queensland's seven public universities is currently generated from international students (Hare, 2013). As a result, the economic imperative alone to continue attracting such students and maximising their opportunities for academic success, is great. Especially relevant for private HE providers is that even before these students enrol in mainstream university degrees, more than 50% are estimated to do so via pathway programs that provide a bridge to facilitate this transition (Adams, 2007). Especially in light of intensified competition for recruitment of international students (Brown, 2009; Gallagher, 2010; Healy, 2010), an in-depth understanding of the target consumers (the students) is invaluable for private HE pathway providers as well as for the affiliated universities. Such understanding provides a basis for a wider-ranging examination of future trends in the private HE sector. This article presents some relevant demographic data, focusing on issues related to the identity of international students studying at a private HE institution.

The private higher education provider that is the focus of the present study (de-identified as PHEP) is associated with a metropolitan university (de-identified as Met_U) in Sydney, Australia, and has been operating from Met_U's campus for well over a decade. PHEP mainly targets international students but in recent years has also marketed to local students who have become a growing presence. PHEP is one of a number of similar institutions (also affiliated with various Australian universities) owned by a large, for-profit, publicly listed, private higher education conglomerate that is also expanding its operations overseas.

The strong presence of Chinese students in the international student cohort both in Australia and overseas is noted in the literature (Birguglio & Smith, 2012; Gu & Schweisfurth, 2006; Jin & Cortazzi, 2011) dealing with various aspects of their adaptation to Western style academia and at various stages in their academic careers- pre-sessional (Gutierrez & Dyson, 2009), undergraduate (Gu, 2011), and postgraduate levels (Ryan & Viete, 2009; Zhou, Topping, & Jindal-Snape, 2011). …

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