Campus Life for International Students: Exploring Students' Perceptions of Quality Learning Environment at a Private University in Malaysia

By Seng, Ernest Lim Kok; Khoo-Lattimore, Catheryn | Higher Education Studies, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Campus Life for International Students: Exploring Students' Perceptions of Quality Learning Environment at a Private University in Malaysia


Seng, Ernest Lim Kok, Khoo-Lattimore, Catheryn, Higher Education Studies


Abstract

The number of international students enrolling at higher learning institutions in Malaysia is increasing each year. However, the quality of learning environment is not always easy to measure, particularly for private universities which are not financially aided by the government, where the learning environment is characterized by their physical construct, quality of staffand academic atmosphere. There have been numerical quantitative researches on the perceptions of university quality learning environment but it is argued that a qualitative approach would add to existing knowledge by providing deeper insights, and from a different perspective. The purpose of the present study was to explore international students' perceptions of a private university through individual in-depth interviews. 15 international students from ten different countries were selected for this study. Various themes emerged from the interviews, some of which have not yet been uncovered in past research investigating learning environment. The findings provide evidence that students expressed their common expectations, concerns, and hopes for a quality university learning environment. This study also provides support for the employment of qualitative approach in the study of perception and quality learning environment.

Keywords: international students, perceptions, learning environment, quality education, private university

1. Introduction

There are 476 private institutions of higher learning in Malaysia but only 58 of these institutions have obtained either university or university college statuses (Ministry of Higher Education, 2010). According to the statistics published by the Ministry of Higher Education, there were 86,923 foreign students registered at institutions of higher learning in the year of 2010. More than 70% of these students enrolled at private universities. The number of international students registered at higher learning institutions in Malaysia is expected to increase each year. Given these figures, it is therefore important for higher education institutions in Malaysia to ensure that students are satisfied with the quality of learning environment. This is particularly urgent for private institutions who are not funded by the government and whose source of revenue depends solely on student enrolments. Students' perceptions on learning environment can serve as a useful tool for the improvement of the quality in tertiary education. The learning environment at these universities vary according to the size of the campus, physical environment, qualification of their staff, students' quality and students' academic performance.

The primary aim of this study is to define the quality learning environment perceived by students at a private university. Therefore, the objectives of this study are threefold. First, it seeks to determine international students' perceptions of quality learning environment at a private university. Then, it provides researchers with a general framework for quality of learning experience in the eyes of international students and thirdly, it provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of education as perceived by the international students.

2. Literature Review

A review of the literature of quality universities education generates several issues such as learning environment, approaches to study, and academic outcomes (Lizzio, Wilson, & Simons, 2002). Learning environment refers to the experience of student at higher learning institution. This consists of caring academic and administrative staff, comfortable environment, quality learning facilities, adequate resources and commitment of the administrators to the improvement of education service quality. These contribute significantly to the students' personality and satisfaction (Banwit & Datta, 2003; Elliot & Healy, 2001; J. Douglas, A. Douglas, & Barnes, 2006). According to Green (1994), the quality of education is explained by the demand for greater efficiency. …

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