Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Leaving Home: The Challenges of Black-African International Students Prior to Studying Overseas

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Leaving Home: The Challenges of Black-African International Students Prior to Studying Overseas

Article excerpt

In recent years, it has been noticed that academic performance and employment outcomes differ between different groups of students.1 For example, in the UK, disabled students have an overall better academic performance than non-disabled students, but Black, minority and ethnic (BME) students perform less well than White students (BIS, 2014). As Cotton, George and Joyner (2010) point out, these differences are not attributed to study time or attendance but instead are related to adapting to the culture in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The notion of inclusivity in education aims to promote fairness and equity in HEIs by "taking account of and valuing students' differences within mainstream curriculum, pedagogy and assessment" (Hockings, 2010, p.3). Much of the discussion on inclusivity and student differences stems from the changes in the make-up of the student body resulting from expansion of higher education (HE), which does "not simply bring more students into HE but, rather, attracts different types of students" (Cottrell 2001, p.5). Discussions of this diversity on campus often list a variety of characteristics or groups of students that should be considered, such as mature, disabled, students from different social classes and cultural backgrounds, different sexual orientations and different faiths (see for e.g. Hockings, 2010). However, such lists rarely include international students, and if they appear at all, they are almost always grouped together as one entity. Whilst higher education professionals have become used to dissecting the diverse needs of the domestic student body, it seems the implications of the diversity found among international students studying in the West are less often considered.

The most cursory of examinations reveals that international (i.e. non-domiciled) students are far from a homogenous group (HESA, 2015). And yet in both the academic literature, and in institutional structures, international students are commonly discussed as single entity (Hyland, Trahar, Anderson & Dickens, 2008). However, as Andrade (2006) points out, combining all international students in this way masks the important challenges faced by particular groups during their time at the host university. Not only do international students come from a vast range of countries and cultures, they also come from different backgrounds within those societies (Manyika, 2001). African students are the third largest group of international students in the UK (HESA 2014), and evidence is emerging that they are subject to a number of specific challenges as they enter and acclimatize to academic life in the West. There are to date only a small number of studies of the experiences of African students studying in the UK, but a number of studies from the USA report that Black-African students studying there face greater amounts of prejudice and discrimination than other groups of international students (Boafo-Arthur 2014; Hanassab, 2006; Lee and Opio, 2011). In addition, issues with English language proficiency are often cited as the greatest source of concern to East Asian students, but both Blake, (2006) and Hyams-Ssekasi, Mushibwe and Caldwell (2014) found that this was less of a concern for Black-African students, many of whom have had previous experience of being taught in English. Mwara (2008) and Hyams-Ssekasi et al. (2014) also found that just as for domestic students, older international students have more adjustment problems than younger, "traditional" age, students.

As Sidoryn and Slade (2009, p.1) point out, "the place students are coming from affects their experiences at university in relation to the social and academic environment, as they come from the familiar to the unfamiliar". Interestingly, there is little research on the lives of international students before they arrive at their destination institutions, as the majority of research centers around problems with language, or adjustment issues once the students have arrived in their host country. …

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