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