Academic Experiences of International Graduate Students: The Canadian Perspective in the Context of Internationalization

Academic Experiences of International Graduate Students: The Canadian Perspective in the Context of Internationalization

Anita Gopal (University of Maryland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9749-2.ch002
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The author examined international graduate students' academic experiences in the context of internationalization from the Canadian standpoint. The objective was to explore how students are positioned between issues of citizenship, nationalism, and the classroom culture. The author used neo-racism as an innovative lens to theorize students' experiences. Key findings that emerged from the interview data included a lack of inclusive practices within the classroom; an absence of international perspectives within curriculum and teaching; language and accent discrimination, and a lack of peer interaction with domestic students. This study contributes to the paucity of research on international graduate students in Canada. It offers insights into the need for organizational change in attitudes towards diversity to improve students' academic experiences and suggests that institutional accountability is a critical component of transforming the culture of the university.
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Many universities have adopted a strategy of internationalization as a response to the downward pressing forces of globalization and the need to compete in the global economy (Cantwell & Maldonado-Maldonado, 2009; Mok, 2007). Universities are heavily competing against each other in the higher education marketplace. Internationalization has often been defined as the process of including an “international, intercultural, and/or global dimension into the curriculum and teaching learning process” (Knight, 2004, p. 6), but it is important to understand that internationalization is an umbrella concept that connotes and captures a broad range of initiatives (Jones, 2009). The processes and strategies of internationalization vary according to country, education system, and institution. Therefore, many approaches have been taken to internationalize higher education (Beck, 2008; Guo & Chase, 2011; Knight, 2004; Iuspa, 2010). The manner in which internationalization is implemented depends on a variety of factors such as the geographic location (e.g., country, city), history, politics, culture, identity, values, beliefs, and priorities of the internationalizing institution (Knight, 2004; Shubert et al., 2009). What is consistent is that the practices of internationalization remain centered on international students (Lee & Rice, 2007).

One of the most popular internationalization strategies for many countries is to bolster the enrollment of international students. Increased global competition and the need to boost Canada’s economy have led the federal government to make policy changes in international education, particularly through enrolling talented international students. Millar (2012) explains that Canadian universities are being urged by the federal government to double international student enrollment from 240,000 in 2011 to 450,000 by the year 2022 as part of its long-term international education strategy. Currently, there are 260,000 international students studying both full time and part time (CIC, 2013). Canada is also competing with other countries such as the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. for its share of international students. International student enrollment, as a form of internationalization, plays a pivotal role in promoting cross-border relationships, fulfilling a university’s internationalization mandate, providing a source of revenue to the institution through high tuition fees, and promoting a diverse learning experience (Cai & Kivisto, 2013; Gopal, 2014). However, after these students arrive at their host institution, they often experience tensions in the classroom, particularly in their interactions with domestic students and faculty, as well as discrimination (Hanassab, 2006; Rampersad, 2007; Sato & Hodge, 2009). Much of the existing research frames international students as having to acclimate to their institution rather than examining the institutional structures in place to support these students.

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