UK postgrads 'shocked' at sight of foreign peers

"I was a bit bewildered at the beginning. It was like, 'ooh', surprise, no English people!"

This was one of several negative reactions from British students asked to reflect on the large number of international students on some postgraduate courses.

The comments were gathered at an unnamed university in England by academics at Bournemouth University, and are recorded in a paper in the Journal of Further and Higher Education titled "The British host: just how welcoming are we?"

A second student, identified only as Emily, said: "To be honest, I was very shocked. I didn't know there would be any international students; it wasn't stated anywhere."

A third added: "There were so many, I couldn't believe it. It's weird, it sounds horrible, but I don't know if I would have taken my course if I had known. I didn't sign up for an international course."

The remarks will make uncomfortable reading for UK universities, which rely on international students to prop up postgraduate studies in certain key disciplines.

Institutions will also be aware of the income such students provide through tuition fees, and of the long-standing concerns that they can end up isolated from UK students.

The paper's authors, Lorraine Brown and Steven Richards, both senior lecturers in tourism, note that previous studies have highlighted the "unfriendly, unapproachable and indifferent" attitudes, and in some cases outright racism, faced by overseas students in the UK.

However, little work has been done on home students' attitudes, they add.

Among the paper's findings are the fact that language issues and differences in humour can cause major barriers to social interaction.

As one student interviewed for the study put it: "Humour particularly is very important to me, and it does not always travel well!"

Others welcomed the cultural diversity, with one adding: "The more the merrier."

john.elmes@tsleducation.com

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Elly Walton illustration (16 July 2015)

Whether in jest or not, sexist language shows an insensitivity to gender issues at odds with academic values, argues Dorothy Bishop

  • Tony Little, Eton College headmaster, 2007

Tony Little points to ‘increasing gap’ between teaching standards at sixth form and university

  • Tourists in rubber rings and flippers ready for snorkeling class

Dress to impress if you want students in your corner, claims US study

  • gold on scales

£246 million is big money but it is probably much less than the hit the research budget would take if the REF did not exist, says Paul Jump