Creating an intercultural welcome pack that supports international student transition into UK higher education

Hengyi Wang (Univeristy of Sussex Business School)
Sarah Watson (University of Sussex)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

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Session Outline

In November 2023, the Financial Times highlighted that in 2021-22, 28% of non-EU international students obtained 2:2 or third-class degrees compared to a 20% rate among domestic students (Borrett and Foster, 2023), resulting in an 8% gap. That figure is at over 40% at some UK institutions. To help close this gap, it is crucial to understand the non-EU international student transition experience in UK Higher Education (HE) Institutions and respond to the specific needs that arise (Smith, 2020). This interactive workshop shares research and strategies to support non-EU international student transition into UK HE. Delegates are invited to provide feedback on the resources provided and discuss their own experiences and strategies related to supporting international student transition at their own institutions.

The session presents a research project that began by interviewing 13 China-domiciled students. The interviewees were asked to describe their transition experience into the University of Sussex and identify ways in which the institution could have better supported them through the transition process. The interviewees predominantly identified their acculturation into the British university system, alongside having English has a second language, as two major challenges faced when transitioning into a UK university which is in line with previous studies on international student experience (Ryan and Viete, 2009), particularly in the context of China-domiciled student transition.

The qualitative results helped the researchers co-create, with two students of Chinese heritage, an intercultural welcome pack to aid transition. The welcome pack highlighted the diverse range of academic and well-being support services available to students throughout their studies. In addition, key information was included in the students’ home language. This bilingual, and co-created, approach signified that support for international students should not simply consist of forcing the student to adapt western-centred teaching approaches, but should value the diversity and internationalisation they bring to the institution. International student transition must include a form of intercultural bridging (Moores & Popadiuk, 2011), whereby students maintain ties to their home cultures as they are introduced to life in the UK.

The welcome pack is now in its second year of use. The researchers have gathered feedback on the pack and have made changes accordingly. However, they are still looking to further develop the resource. For this reason, they are keen to share the project with, and gather responses from, the UKAT network. As the Financial Times reminded us, there is a huge amount of work to be done across the sector to ensure that our non-EU international students have as much of an opportunity to thrive in UK HE than their UK counterparts. The best place to start with achieving this academic success, is with a supportive, hospitable and informative transition process.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C5 - How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness