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International Student

In: Business and Management

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TOPIC: INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’ ATTITUDES ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE UK

Student: Pham Trang Huyen My
Student ID: 77142444
10 weeks Pre-sessional course

December, 2013

List of content

Abstract 3
1. Introduction 4
2. Literature review 5
2.1. Higher Education in the UK 5
2.2. Teacher-student relationships and the quality of teaching 5
2.3. Different learning styles 6
2.4. Group work 7
2.5. Financial issues 8
3. Methodology 9
4. Results 10
5. Discussion 14
6. Conclusion 16
List of References 17
Appendix 19

Abstract

Higher education is a competitive business which produces huge benefits for the UK economy. This paper reveals international students’ attitudes about UK higher education and focuses on direct factors which can affect students’ opinions. Reports of international students’ attitudes already carried out in Leeds Metropolitan University are analyzed and the main findings are emphasized. A total of eighteen international students interviewed provided data on their experience in UK education that involves the challenges they have faced and what they have achieved. The project concludes that not only UK tuition fees but also the quality of education can affect international students’ decision to study in the UK. Therefore measures should be taken in order to improve the quality of education or decrease the tuition fees to attract more international students to study in the UK. Further study is needed to be done in the future to examine the other factors in UK higher education, which can affect international students’ attitudes.

1. Introduction

Higher education plays a critical role in driving economic growth and social mobility (O’Prey, 2012). It is probably a delicious cake for any country selling the high quality education. Currently, even though the global economy is on a downturn, the number of students studying abroad is still going up. This leads the education business to be more competitive than ever: many countries which include the US, the UK, Australia and more, tend to attempt to pull more international students into their education. This could suggest there is a need to understand international students’ attitudes about UK higher education, and find appropriate ways to meet the need.

This report investigates attitudes about UK higher education among international students. Higher education is an export industry which contributes huge benefits for the UK economy. This is affected by teacher-student relationships, the quality of teaching, different learning styles between UK education and students’ previous education, group work and financial issues. This is based on students’ experience such as the challenges they have faced and the things they have achieved in UK education. This paper analyses a study of different opinions about UK higher education among international students. International students from Leeds Metropolitan University were selected, and they were given a questionnaire about their attitudes with UK higher education. The study attempts to answer the following research question: “To what extent is UK higher education determined by international students’ attitudes?”

2. Literature review

2.1. Higher Education in the UK

According to Scudamore (2013), the UK education system has the highest possible standards in the world. Today, there are more international students coming to the UK than ever before and they are bringing huge benefits to local and national economies (O’Prey, 2012). In December 2012, O’Prey mentioned that: “Higher education as an export industry contributed about £7.9 billion annually in 2009 and has the potential of almost £17 billion by 2025” (p.23).

However, the educational business is becoming more competitive between countries which have a high quality of education (O’Prey, 2012). The percentage of international students studying in the US is 16.6%, followed by the UK with 13% and Germany with 6.5% (ibid). Consequently, it is important for UK economy to understand international students’ attitudes to improve UK higher education and attract more international students as customers, who are worth a lot of money.

2.2. Teacher-student relationships and the quality of teaching

A lecturer, the bridge between students and higher education, is evaluated by his knowledge and experience of teaching (Scudamore, 2013). Edwards and Ran (2006) and Yorke and Longden (2008) have similar findings about the quality of teaching, and some respondents noticed that the lecturer does not have the necessary knowledge and skills. They reported that some teachers just probably give a presentation with PowerPoint and let students do exercises without supporting them. Besides, the relationship between students and lecturers seems to be the main key to explore how to approach higher education (Scudamore, 2013).

According to York and Longden (2008) and Adward and Ran (2006), overseas students feel a lack of contact with their teachers who are too busy and uncaring. Similarly, Bowl (2003) conducted research about full-time and part-time international students, and reported that some subject lecturers and personal tutors do not care about the process of studying or students’ needs. Yorke and Longden (2008) reported a number of international undergraduate students who stop their course after the first year, with many reasons which involved 22% of the international students explaining that the main issue was the lack of contact with academic staff. This amount decreased in the following academic year, due to students having adapted to the new academic environment.

However, most ideas mentioned above seem to be on the negative side. It is possibly difficult to understand this issue when the number of international students studying in UK education is tending to grow (O’Prey, 2012). There has been a doubling of the number of non-EU students coming to the UK since 2002-2003 across all subjects, significantly involving an 80% increase from Asia and the Middle East (O’Prey, 2012).

2.3. Different learning styles

Being from diverse cultures begs the question, then, of what the international student’s opinion is about the different learning methods. There are some obstacles which might be faced by oversea students. Firstly, Edwards and Ran (2006) mentioned that the British academic focuses on studying rather than memorizing, which can cause Asian students not to understand deeply when they study in the UK. Secondly, non-EU students tend to be silent because they may find working more effectively by listening than by discussing. However, Western teachers, who often discuss with their students about lesson content, possibly do not impose their ideas on their students (Scudamore, 2013). Furthermore, there is a deficiency of academic writing and reading skills which can be seen in many overseas students, who do not know how to organize an essay with a British structure. Therefore they are probably trapped in managing reading time. These ideas came from Bowl’s research in 2003. Finally, independence in learning is one of the requirements in UK education: students need to study and develop by themselves, and the teacher just seems to play a role in supporting. This can lead to difficult experiences and painful feelings for non-EU students who are used to listening to and following their teacher’s opinions (Yorke and Longden, 2008).

Nevertheless, it may be the case that most overseas students have optimistic opinions about UK higher education. Cavanagh (2012) and Yorke and Longden (2008) mentioned that all of the above problems appear to be culture shock with positive effects: overseas students will adapt quickly and achieve the productive way of learning. In addition, they also noticed, the pressure of being handed homework every day which must be handed in by the next class promotes their ability to manage time and be more responsible. Being on time, keeping attention and being prohibited from using mobile phones possibly are evaluated as good rules (Cavanagh, 2012). Overall, it is apparent that different learning styles can be a challenge for overseas students, nevertheless, with effective outcomes.

2.4. Group work

It is apparent that group work is one of the characteristics of British academic life (Scudamore, 2013). In reality, non-EU students prefer to work individually to in a group, and this derives from their previous experience, where they were taught how to pass the final exam is rather than tested on their ability to work with others or solve practical problems. Therefore they struggle in explaining their ideas (Jones, 2010; Huang, 2008). The authors also stated that there is probably a fear which can be seen in non-EU students when they have to present publicly. In addition, they find an interruption is impolite and stressful with a language barrier in discussion. All of the issues mentioned above might challenge international students and they may blame themselves, be depressed and sometimes neglect their studies.

However, it may be the case that, there are a lot of benefits. Jones (2010) discovered that overseas students might explore their potential abilities and plan for their future career by working in a group and developing resources of useful contacts with international friends. In conduct, there are possible both sides, positive and negative, of international views about group work, especially among non-EU students.

2.5. Financial issues

According to Jones (2010), financial issues are vital elements in making the decision to study abroad. UK tuition fees are the third highest in the world (Hubble, 2012). In addition, Yorke and Longden (2008) commented that non-EU students’ tuition fees seem to be double when compared with EU students’. This probably affects the feeling of non-EU students, who might feel they are not getting value for money from their course. In 2008, Yorke and Longden conducted research and found 36% of the first year overseas students in the UK stopped studying because of financial problems.

In spite of international students often claiming that tuition fees were high, they seem to be willing to pay (Matthews, 2013). The evidence suggests that this is because they are buying their UK degree, which is a valuable product (ibid). This explains why universities can charge them far more than UK postgraduates (ibid). In addition, some of them argue that this is probably the financial sacrifice which encourages them study to hard and achieve a degree (Yorke and Longden, 2008).

Methodology

This section includes a review of the research method and design appropriateness, a discussion of the population and sample. In addition this session reports attitudes of overseas students about UK higher education.

It was decided to adopt a quantitative approach because I might orient respondents and possibly gain the results. With a qualitative approach it could be easier to achieve a better understanding of the attitudes of international students about UK higher education; however, there might be a large number of different respondents and might not capture essential answers. I hope that this study will mark the beginning of quantitative research dedicated to understanding the attitudes of overseas students in a new academic setting.

Ethical approval to undertake this study came from Leeds Metropolitan University. The population based on a number of postgraduate students studying on a pre-sessional course at Leeds Metropolitan University. Furthermore, all students gave their consent and were ensured of confidentiality and anonymity and no financial or other incentives were offered to them to take part. Subsequently, students volunteered by doing questionnaire in person. There were 18 students from different countries asked with a half of them from the Middle East, six people from Asia, and the others from Africa.

This survey includes 15 closed questions and one open question, which was divided into two sections. The first section requests the respondents to provide personal respondents’ information. The second section was designed to find that how international students value UK higher education. The final question is an open one which asks students about their experience about UK higher education.

This study has a limitation of sample size. Therefore there is possibly a need to conduct further research which might have more respondents from other regions, such as Europe or America. The next chapter will disclose the findings obtained and these will be analyzed to reveal the relevant information desired.
4. Results
The respondents’ profile was divided into 3 groups which include gender, age and nationality. There were 12 males and 6 females, with 9 of them from 20 to 25 years old, 6 people in the age range between 26 and 30 years old and 3 people aged over 30.

The main findings and summary were shown below

Figure 1: How much students are satisfied with UK teachers is evaluated by 4 factors
[pic]

The graph above demonstrates students’ views about UK teachers. The majority of the respondents stated that most issues mentioned were good; except for the teacher support which had the biggest number of comment (with 9 respondents) and which was seen as excellent. None of the people interviewed were not satisfied with UK teachers.
[pic]
The pie chart provides data on which style of learning is easier for international students. 66.6% of people agreed that they might benefit from the lesson more by discussing with teachers and classmates; however, 33.3% of the respondents have the opposite idea.
[pic]
This pie chart illustrates the number of international students who have benefited from UK learning styles. Fifteen of the eighteen respondents showed that UK learning styles were useful, while the number of people who had the opposite idea and no idea were two and one, respectively.

Figure 4: Overseas students’ attitudes about working in a group

The graph provides information on how overseas students feel when they work in a team. The largest number of people agreed that they felt stressed with the language barrier, followed by feeling impolite if they stopped any member of the class when they were talking and a fear of presenting. Two people did not have any barrier.

[pic]
The pie chart shows their opinion about whether teamwork is useful or not for their future career. Seventeen out of eighteen people believed that their future career could be supported by teamwork, while most respondents struggled with teamwork, which can be seen in figure 4.
[pic]
[pic] Figure 6 describes students’ views about UK education tuition fees and figure 7 provides data on how students get value for money from the course. As can be seen in the former, more than half of respondents believed that tuition fees were high, followed by 29% of the respondents who believed they were reasonable, 12% who thought they were low and 6% of those had no opinion. In spite of this, most people said it was expensive and there were about 70% people who admitted that they were satisfied with the money paid for their course, which can be seen in figure 7.

Discussion

There were 17 out of 18 people interviewed who agreed that group work would possibly be useful for their future career. The most plausible reason could be that students probably cannot avoid working with the others if they are employed by any company in the future, and teamwork in university seems to be the way of preparing for the coming years. This confirms the findings of Jones (2012), who said overseas students might explore their potential abilities and plan for their future by working in a group.

Although most respondents stated that UK tuition fees were high they felt they were getting value for money from their course, which is not surprising because the UK has a good education system which in many cases may be better than in their home country. This possibly fits the survey of Matthews (2013), who showed that international students are willing to pay high fees to get worthy academic courses.

However, surprisingly, none of the respondents claimed that their relationship with their teacher or the quality of teaching was below average or poor. In contrast, this finding does not support Bowl’s (2003) survey, which stated teachers do not possibly care about students’ needs or their process of studying. Additionally, Edward and Ran (2006) and Yorke and Longden (2008) also reported that teachers do not have enough skills and knowledge; these results seem to be opposite to mine. These researchers’ results could be explained by the fact that some international students might not know a suitable way of approaching English academic life and so be depressed and confused and blame their teachers.

Interestingly, 66.6% of the students who responded to the questionnaire showed that they find discussions with the teachers are a good way to study effectively. This contradicts the findings of Edward and Rand‘s (2006) who suggested that non-EU students study productively by listening and following their teachers. This difference might be explained by the fact that most respondents have got work experience and they probably already have critical thinking skills, so therefore they find discussion is the better way to improve academically.
Finally, when in analyzing the open questions about how international students define their experience about UK higher education, there were some respondents who mentioned how learning about critical thinking has affected them. This is clearly an avenue of future research.

Conclusion

This research revealed international students’ attitudes about higher education in the UK. Higher education plays an important role in the UK economy. Higher education is affected by teacher-student relationships, the quality of teaching, different learning styles between UK education and students’ previous education, group work and financial issues. This is based on students’ experience, such as what they had been challenged to do and what they have achieved in UK education. This paper examined a study of different opinions about UK higher education among international students. International students from Leeds Metropolitan University were picked, and they were given a questionnaire about their attitudes towards UK higher education. The study attempted to answer the following research question: “To what extent is UK higher education determined by international students’ attitudes?”

The main finding of this paper was that international students consider UK education tuition fees to be high even though they are willing to pay in order to get good education. This was not a surprising result because it was similar to Matthews’s (2008) survey. This result might be used to understand how to attract more international students, UK education tuition fees should be lowered or the quality of education should be enhanced. Clearly, further research in this area is required.

List of References

Bartram, B. (2012) “Brits Abroad”: the perceived support needs of U.K. learners studying in higher education overseas. Journal of studies in international education [Online], 17(1) April, pp.5-18. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Bowl, M. (2003) Non-traditional entrants to higher education. Wiltshire: Cromwell Press.

Cavanagh, C. (2012) To what extent has the impact of overseas studying changed education student’s perception on higher education [Online]. Liverpool Hope University. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Edwards, V. and Ran, V (2006) Meeting the needs of Chinese students in British Higher Education [Online]. Reading University. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Huang, R. (2008) Critical thinking: Discussion from Chinese Postgraduate international students and their lecturers [Online]. Plymouth Business School. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Hubble, S. (2012) University tuition fees and student support across Europe [Online]. Parliament. Available from: [Accessed 26th November 2013].

Jones, E. (2010) Internationalisation and the student voice. New York: Routledge.

Matthew, D. (2013) International and postgraduate student fees survey, 2013 [Online]. tsl education ltd. Available from: [Accessed 26th November 2013].

O’Prey, P. (2012) Pattern and trends in UK Higher Education 2012 [Online]. UK universities. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Scudamore, R. (2013) Engaging home and international students: guide for new lecturers [Online]. The Higher Education Academy. Available from: [Accessed 24th October 2013].

Yorke, M. and Longden. B. (2013) First year student experiences [Online]. Manchester University. Available from: [Accessed 20th October 2013].

Appendix

I am a student of Leeds Metropolitan University. As part of my study I am doing a research project to understand international students’ attitudes toward Higher Education in the UK.

Could you please spend a few minutes of your time to complete the questionnaire. Your responses will be used for academic research only. Personal information will not be used for any other purpose. This questionaire is completely anonymous, so please give your honest opinion.

Thank you for your cooperation.
Section 1
1. Gender: □ Male □ Female
2. Age: □ 20-25 □ 26-30 □ over 30
3. Nationality:………………….
Section 2
1. How do you value the role of a teacher in Higher Education?
(from 1 - 5, with 1 = not important to 5 = the most important)
□ 1 □ 2 □ 3 □ 4 □ 5
2. Please tick a number which suits you for the following value:
( 5 = excellent / 4 = good / 3= average/ 2 = below average / 1 =poor)

|How much do you value |5 |4 |3 |2 |1 |
|Teacher support | | | | | |
|The care of teachers about your needs | | | | | |
|Teacher knowledge | | | | | |
|Teaching skills | | | | | |

3. What way do you find easier to study?
□ Listening to your teachers and following their opinions
□ Discussing with your teachers and classmates to find out the result of the lesson

4. What kind of skill do you lack? (You can tick more than one option)
□ Reading □ Writing □ Managing time □ Self-study
□Other, please state………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
5. Do you think UK education rules are strict about…? (You can tick more than one)
□ Handing works on time □ Inhibiting using mobile
□ Being on time □ Giving attention
□ Other, please state……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
6. Do you feel stress because of UK education rules?
□ Yes □ No □ Do not know
7. Have you benefited from the UK teaching and learning style?
□ Yes □ No □ Do not know
8. What problems below apply to you when you work in a group? (You can tick more than one)
□ Being afraid of presenting publicly
□ Interruption when any member of a group is speaking is impolite
□ Being stressed when you can not express your opinion clearly because of a language barrier
□ None of them
9. Do you think working in a group is to benefit for your future career? (If your answer is yes please do question number 14)
□ Yes □ No □ Do not know
10. Which is the benefit of working in a group for your future career? (You can tick more than one)
□ Exploring ability of working with the others effectively
□ Making useful contacts with international friends
□ Other , Please state………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
11. What do you think about the cost of your tuition fee?
□ Expensive □ Reasonable □ Cheap □ No opinion
12. Do you think you are getting value for money from your course?
□Yes □ No □ Do not know
If your answer is no, please state why? ......................................................................................
13. Overall, how would you define your experience of UK Higher Education?
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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