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Australian Catholic University annual review 2008

Research into the needs of international students

In 2008, a summary was published of research conducted at the North Sydney Campus (where 55 per cent of all degree and diploma students were international students), involving 48 international students and 23 key stakeholders, including academic and general staff as well as students in representative positions.

Analysis of the data identified five core themes:

  • personal and interpersonal issues, i.e. feelings of loneliness, isolation, lack of belonging, stress with work–life balance, issues with communication, pressures to succeed and academic and cross-cultural issues
  • meeting basic needs, such as financial, transport, accommodation and employment necessities, and navigating cultural differences
  • risks to psychological and physical wellbeing, i.e. concerns with personal safety, exploitation, childcare/parenting issues, health (physical and psychological) and discrimination on campus
  • organisational/campus issues, i.e. concerns with campus facilities, support (most reported positive experience here) and cross-cultural staff
  • stories of resilience – numerous inspiring personal stories.

A number of recommendations were made, including:

  • international student home country flags be permanently displayed on campus with Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags
  • campus social activities be increased
  • ACU fund a mentoring scheme to integrate international and local students to reduce experiences of loneliness and isolation and to increase a sense of belonging.

A number of the recommendations were implemented during the year, to improve the response to meeting the psycho-social needs of international students. The 2008 AUQA Report noted this research, commenting that:

”the challenge remains to ensure that all campuses benefit from the findings of the report”.