Should British Universities Follow All Trends? Should They Adapt to the Needs of International Students?
British Universities are attracting a great number of international students on a yearly basis. According to the latest statistics, the number of Chinese students reached 87,895 in 2013-2014. India is rated on the second place among the countries that send students in the UK (19,750 in 2013-2014). What makes this country's educational system superior? Growth has always been an essential part of its reputation, but the main factor of appeal is the preservation of traditional values and teaching methods. By infusing tradition with evolution, UK universities have managed to create a unique system that delivers unsurpassed results.
International students face difficulties
Unfortunately, international students are not able to meet the high standards of the schools they are admitted to. The first challenge is the English language. Foreign students who haven't mastered English grammar and vocabulary have difficulties to express themselves, understand the lectures, and write important papers according to strict academic standards. Even those students who easily meet the minimum language requirements find technical and academic terminology overwhelming.
Language support classes are not entirely effective, since they don't focus on specialised terminology. Not all foreign students have the same base of English language skills, which is why the generic approach of these support classes is incompatible with their needs.
Adjustment to a completely different culture is another challenge that international students face. Since the standards of their native cultures cannot be incorporated into UK curriculums, these students have difficulties to take part in class discussions, especially when it comes to economic and political issues in the UK.
All these issues impose an important question: should the British educational system be adapted to the needs of foreign students?
Why should UK universities adapt to foreign students' needs?
This country's educational system attracts thousands of international students. Their native countries will benefit from the skills and knowledge they obtain in the UK, but our universities also grow and benefit from the cultural diversity and values these students contribute with.
As a result of the imposed need for changes, many British universities are creating a “pathway” year that enables overseas students to get extra support in order to surpass language, cultural, and academic barriers. This is a promising starting point that can deliver good results. In addition to language support, international students also get lessons in UK culture and history throughout this foundational year. Then, they can integrate into the system with less stress involved.
However, the goal of making foreign students feel comfortable in UK universities is not entirely achieved with this significant change. It is even more important for the institutions to encourage social adjustment and engagement through different activities that merge all cultures together. Social networks, as an important part of students' lives, can become part of the efforts to help students adapt to the new environment.Regardless of these steps that make difference in terms of social adaptation, international students still have difficulties to cope with the high academic standards of UK universities. This leads us to another important issue: should there be course adaptation for international students?
Some things should not be changed
All foreign students have undergone tests that evaluate their abilities before arriving at a UK university. In addition, most of them receive support with language and socialization upon their arrival. However, they still face difficulties with the courses, since the gap between the new educational standards and the system they are coming from is too great to surpass.
Opponents of course adaptation driven by the needs of foreign students stand behind the claim that the traditional values and standards of UK universities should not suffer for the sake of internationalization. All changes should be supplemental to the course of growth this system has taken. The programmes should not be made less rigorous, and the requirements should not be less challenging with the purpose to enable students to adapt to the new environment.
Universities should provide all needed support to international students, but they must never lower their academic standards.