A new survey of how domestic Canadian students experience the internationalization of the campus by a Toronto-based consultancy finds mixed results.
Of the 1,398 students surveyed by Higher Education Strategy Associates, 43 percent counted at least one international student among the five closest friends they made at university. Overall, the study found that students generally have positive attitudes toward the diversity that international students bring to their social lives and the classroom.
However, the study also identified a number of tensions. Roughly half of respondents agreed with the statement that the presence of international students has considerably enriched their classroom learning experience. However, roughly a third said there have been occasions in which having international students in class hindered their learning experience.
Students in business and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields – which attract large numbers of students from overseas – were least likely to agree that international students had enriched their learning experience. Across all fields of study, students who had a close international friend were more likely to say that international students enriched the classroom experience.
As for the issue of international instructors and teaching assistants, 70 percent of students said they took a course with an international instructor or T.A. who was difficult to comprehend because of his or her English or French ability (the survey is of domestic Canadian students, recall). And 32 percent said an instructor's language level had negatively impacted their ability to succeed in a course.
“None of this should be taken as an argument against internationalization,” the report concludes. “Rather, it suggests two things: first, that the values of internationalization are still in many ways adopted only superficially by Canadian students, and require strengthening. And second, that not enough attention is being paid to the dislocations caused by internationalization, particularly with respect to instructors’ official language abilities. Mitigating those problems is likely key to sustaining students’ support for internationalization over the long run; without it, the large minorities who have had less than positive experiences with campus internationalization could turn into majorities, and the resulting discontent could imperil the entire process."