GLOBAL: International graduate student challenges

Globalisation has embraced the university, as it has other sectors. Many academics appreciate the benefits that cross-cultural exchange allows as the ivory tower turns global. Knowledge now belongs to a worldwide arena in which we are all connected, writes Dr Fengying Xu in the latest edition of the Canadian journal Academic Matters. But "there are enormous challenges for teaching, studying and research inside this globally-interdependent context".

"In the case of international graduate students, the language of instruction is not the only issue. They must learn different research methodologies and understand a new set of complex cultural dynamics both in their living situations and in their new university workplaces," she continues in an article titled "Cross-cultural Challenges in Teaching International Graduate Students".

"Very often their adaptation takes place in a context of very little appreciation or understanding of the challenges of trying to perform according to the high academic standards of a new language, culture, and workplace. And there are often the unconscious assumptions of the 'international faculty club' that promotes ideas and even behaviours largely dominated by Western (predominantly American) intellectuals."

Fengying Xu, who currently teaches at Algonquin College in Ottawa, asks: How are the challenges of teaching international graduate students being met? Between 2007 and 2008 she conducted an investigation that involved an online survey of 126 volunteers from America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan. Of them, 71% were international graduate students and 29% were professors. "The collected data revealed four significant challenges in teaching international graduate students: definition of a dissertation, research readiness, departmental advising, and English writing skills."
Full article on the Academic Matters site