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Enhancing the social integration of international students in Australian Universities : strategies for sustaining a quality international student experience

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Alison Owens, S Loomes
There has been much concern in the higher education sector recently about ensuring the welfare and safety of slightly more than 183,000 international students studying at Australian universities. In general terms, this has been framed as a concern with the overall quality of the international student experience. In an increasingly competitive global higher education market, the quality of the overall experience of an overseas study sojourn is a vital consideration if Australia is to sustain its considerable earnings of $15 billion per year from this ‘onshore’ export. Aside from the economic benefits, the presence of students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in our universities allows for intercultural interactions and learning as well as the development of global networks so pivotal to successful engagement in the knowledge society. In recognition of the economic and socio-cultural value of the international student cohort, as well as the significant challenge/risk of studying away from family and friends in a foreign community, most universities now provide student services departments where specialist staff work to ensure international students receive support and guidance in extra-curricular matters associated with an overseas study experience including accommodation, part time work and general welfare. A persistent challenge for all Australian universities is the reported failure of international and domestic students to integrate on and off campus. While this remains a problem for universities with enrolments of both domestic and international students, social integration presents a unique challenge to campuses dedicated to international student education such as those managed by CQUniversity as well as many other interstate universities in popular CBD locations, particularly Sydney and Melbourne. These students study with few domestic colleagues but a very diverse population of fellow international students. For the last two years CQUniversity has focused on improving social integration with the local community, the staff and other students for nearly 8000 international students at the campuses in the capital cities of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The international student ‘experience’ is understood to begin at first contact with marketing staff and applications feedback, to continue through the years of on-campus study and to include the final ceremony of graduation and the alumni relationship. Improved student integration was pursued through a series of strategies involving multiple departments in the university. Strategies included celebration of diverse cultural festivals, regular sporting events, the inclusion of students on Campus committees, charity events, student parties, community/industry member presentations and workshops, English clubs and events, job coaching services and events, regular study skills workshops and support and so on. This paper reports the results of a survey of CQUniversity Sydney international students who have had access to these enhanced opportunities for integration as well as a focus group discussion with staff and students. Results determine the success of these initiatives from the perspective of students as well as key staff and identify further initiatives considered beneficial to supporting further social integration.


Parent Title

Real Education Revolution Sustainability in Tertiary Education : 2009 Tertiary Education Management Conference, Darwin, 13-16 September 2009.

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Leisham Associates

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Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

International Education Research Centre (IERC); Sydney International Campus;

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Name of Conference

Tertiary Education Management Conference