How many international students are there in your class?

EVER felt like there were more international students in your class than local students? We looked at the latest enrolment figures to find out. Tara Amici and Kai Yi Wong report.

LATEST enrolment figures show international students make up a significant proportion of students on campus, and in some courses, outnumbering domestic students.

Fields of education such as management and commerce, engineering and related technologies have traditionally been the most popular for students seeking to pursue higher education in Australia.

At the University of Melbourne, international student enrolments this year for engineering and related courses have outnumbered domestic enrolments by a small margin.

International students in management and commerce make up almost half of the university cohort.

At RMIT University, international students make up close to 30 per cent of enrolments in engineering and related courses, and 37 per cent of enrolments in management and commerce.

Cross-culture student engagement – whose responsibility is it?

Assistant dean for international exchange at University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering Dr Shanton Chang said the best outcomes for students’ learning experiences, especially interactions between international and domestic students, are achieved when “all parties work at it”.

“Interaction cannot just come from the institutions or students,” Dr Chang said.

Educational institutions play a part when it comes to providing opportunities for students to interact, enhancing students’ skills and abilities to communication across culture, and inspiring and motivating students who are less interested to consider interaction as an option, he said.

Domestic and international students Meld spoke to said while there were no problems getting along, students tended to stick to their own groups.

Damian Paterno, a domestic student studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne said his interaction with international students was limited to the boundaries of the classroom and campus.

Although he has made friends with his international student peers, they do not seek each other’s company or feel they have much to talk about outside the subject they share.
“To enhance interaction between international and domestic students, both groups must make an effort to make each other feel welcome,” he conceded.

“Domestic and international students should attempt to get to know and interact with each other rather than just sticking with their own groups. Both groups would benefit from being more outgoing.”

Speaking in English

Bryan Ong, an international student studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne, said students needed to make a conscious effort to communicate in English even if it wasn’t their first language.

“As long as international students take the initiative to speak English and domestic students remain open minded and patient in understanding different cultures, I’m confident the level of engagement would increase,” he said.

An international student studying a Masters of Communication Design at RMIT University who did not wish to be named, said she found it frustrating to work with other international students who had a lot of difficulty communicating in English.

She said a basic grasp of English was vital for students to communicate not just with each other, but also with the wider community.

“A lot of group work requires us to approach external companies personally, and these students are not able to do so. Another frustrating thing is that because their English is bad, group meetings are slow and unproductive,” she said.

Education in a globalised world

For domestic RMIT University student Hyacinth Jimenez who is studying a double degree in engineering and business, sharing the classroom with international students can only be a good thing.

“I think that interaction between domestic, rural and international students allow for learning of new cultures or social norms, as well as developing language and communication skills,” she said.

There are 2 comments

  1. Jacqueline

    Interesting data. The issue for some international students is that their intention is to study, get good grades and then go back to their own country. So they might want to hang out with people who speak the same first language to help each other with studies. Why make an effort to speak in English and befriend English speakers while the friendship won’t be long-lasting anyway?

    For me, I am an international student and I did my Arts degree. I made a few local friends and were in touch even the semester ends. But that’s because we have some degree of commonality outside uni. I think the challenge for both local and international students is to be interested in differences instead of finding commonality in people.

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