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‘They don't really want to know us’: experiences and perceptions of international students at the Dublin Institute of Technology

Author - Almut Schlepper


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Abstract

This paper seeks to explore the experiences and perceptions of international, non-EU students at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

My interest in the subject derives from my work as a lecturer at a college with an increasing number of international students and from my participation as a student on a course which made me appreciate the value of a diverse student and lecturer body.

The sample of the survey I carried out included international students and lecturers at one campus of the Dublin Institute of Technology.

While the results indicated that international students are just as heterogeneous as Irish students, they are faced with specific problems deriving from difficulty with language, differences in academic culture and segregation from the Irish students. They are also subjected to discrimination and racism, which is often not expressed explicitly and therefore hard to challenge.

Because of falling numbers of Irish students, institutions of higher education have increasingly become dependent on the recruitment of international students, but do not appreciate the educational benefits of a diverse student population. The revenue generated by the international students does not correspond to an adequate infrastructure of support and services. The lack of acknowledgement by the institution corresponds with the failure to recognise the international students as an integral part of life on campus. As a consequence the international students expressed the feeling of being ignored and neglected. As Irish students were not part of the survey their attitude could be deducted only from how the international students perceived them.

The fact that the majority of lecturers regarded international students as an asset gives an indication of the hidden potential of diversity. The detailed suggestions of both students and lecturers could help to improve the situation and to create the conditions for an intercultural campus. In addition, the institution needs to develop policy guidelines and codes of practice for the development of awareness of diversity issues and recognition of the value of a diverse student population.

 


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