Higher Education at Brock University: An Inclusive Environment for International Students?

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By Amanda Marino

The Master of Education International Student Program (MEd ISP) exists within the Administration and Leadership in Education specialization at Brock University. The ISP is designed to support individuals in a learning community, however it is available for full-time, course-based or MRP students only, and runs for 14 months in a cohort program (Brock University, 2013). International students are seldom permitted to enroll in courses outside of their cohort, and may be integrated in classrooms with Canadian students only during summer courses. The concerns that I will be exploring comprise of the exclusion and segregation of international students, the benefits and limitations of separating the programs, and how we can improve our institution by creating a more inclusive learning environment for all.

The Issue of Segregation

By isolating international students in cohorts, I strongly feel that there is a lost opportunity for all students to be engaged and integrated into one another’s culture. Why are we not providing international students with a choice to be integrated, separated, or a mixture of both? Have we even asked them what they want?

The Ontario government expresses the need for more international students in order to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and fuel new demands for accountability and quality in education (Stewart, 2010). However once admitted, are international students being treated fairly? Can we confirm that a quality education is being achieved for all?

Thus, not only are international students faced with paying double the tuition costs, as outlined in the Brock University graduate calendar (Brock, 2013), but they must also adapt to the learning and living styles of a new culture. In addition to this, we are not providing international students with the freedom to choose their learning path, and are therefore creating more barriers within our programs and between our cultures.

Drawbacks of the MEd ISP

Segregation can act as a barrier to the adaptation process, contribute to anxiety, and generate negative perceptions of the Canadian culture (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). International students face challenges integrating into Canadian academic environments, and experience isolation, alienation, marginalization, and low self-esteem (Chase & Guo, 2011). The effects of segregation may be experienced by both international and Canadian students because an understanding and appreciation of one another is not established. In my opinion, the strict restriction of course selection is discriminatory, and limits the abilities of international students to adapt and fully integrate into Canadian culture. In essence, we are missing an opportunity to promote cross-cultural understanding, respect for cultural diversity, and awareness of global issues (Chase & Guo, 2011).

Benefits of the MEd ISP

On the contrary, although there are many negative aspects in segregating international students, there are also many benefits. Restricting social relations to only international students may increase levels of confidence in cultural identity, and creates an essential support system (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). Furthermore, belonging to a community of learners that is going through the same emotions, challenges, and experiences creates a safe space for all (Brookfield, 1999). Therefore, it is important to recognize that some prefer to be separated as a coping mechanism, and others truly benefit from the integration.

Areas for Improvement

It is my firm belief that international students at Brock University should be given the opportunity to be integrated into all courses within the MEd program, if it is their desire. Choice and flexibility within the program creates an inclusive learning environment. Perhaps in the first semester of study, international students would remain in their cohort in order to build relationships and establish a sense of community. Then, students should be free to decide the courses in which to enroll. In addition, the institution and/or peers of the MEd program could provide extra help and guidance, or perhaps even design a series of workshops to assist international students with questions regarding academics, funding, work, language, and culture.

In conclusion, “Ontario must create teaching-oriented institutions that provide student-focused education, with more options for a diverse student population at a more affordable cost” (Clark, Trick, & Van Loon, 2011). We must address the issue of exclusion within our institution in order to provide and support an inclusive, diverse, and meaningful learning experience for all students

References

Brock University (2013). International Students. Retrieved from https://discover.brocku.ca/Graduate_Study/internationalstudents.ezc

Brookfield, S.D. (1999). What is college really like for adult students? About Campus, 13(6),10-15.

Chase, M., & Guo, S. (2011). Internationalisation of higher education: Integrating international students into Canadian academic environment. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 305-318.

Clark, I.D., Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2011). Time to consider a new type of university. University Affairs, 24-27.

Rose-Redwood, C.R., & Rose-Redwood, R.S. (2013). Self-segregation or global mixing?: Social interactions and the international student experience. Journal of  College Student Development, 54(4), 413-429.

Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Retrieved from http://www.cautbulletin.ca/en_article.asp?articleid=3026

 

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3 thoughts on “Higher Education at Brock University: An Inclusive Environment for International Students?

  1. Amanda,

    You provided great insight into something I’ve wondered about since deciding to enroll in the M.Ed. program over a year ago. I certainly agree that the M.Ed. ISP program is treated as a completely segregated entity within the M.Ed. program. Firstly, I question why the only field of specialization available to international students is the Administration and Leadership stream? Indeed, the Government of Ontario speaks of increasing flexibility at the post-secondary level (i.e. using online courses to promote student mobility and enhanced credential options) (Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, 2012), but it seems as if this does not apply to international students. Certainly the Administration and Leadership field of specialization is not the only interest of international students in the M.Ed. program. Why are there not multiple fields of specialization available for international students? If one of the government’s strategies for strengthening the province’s PSE system is to increase the number of international students to strengthen the economy (Stewart, 2010), how is it fair to stream them into one homogeneous group in the M.Ed. ISP program? It’s not!

    Furthermore, the issue of cost is of great concern. Why is it that international students pay $22,930 for the program versus $10,318 for domestic students? (Brock University, 2013). In Canada, the elitism that has historically been associated with university has diminished through the removal of many barriers that segregated the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’ (Cote & Allahar, 2011). Although this has happened, it appears to have been to the advantage of the domestic student. Instead, it seems as if our PSE institutions are establishing a culture of elitism where only the international students who have the financial means to pursue an education in Canada can. What about the less privileged students from the same countries? Shouldn’t they be given the same opportunities?

    Last semester, one of the M.Ed. ISP students spent an evening in my “Life in Educational Organizations” class from the Administration and Leadership field of specialization. Despite being in the same field of specialization, this student indicated that she did not have any choice to take this class as part of her program. However, at the end of the evening, this student confirmed some of the potential reasons as to why Brock segregates the ISP students. Firstly, she indicated that she was having difficulties keeping up with our discussion as English was not her first language. As a result, it made it difficult for her to participate, leading to unintentional exclusion.

    Amanda, such as you suggested, if the province is going to keep the doors of its PSE institutions open to international students, at least give them some say in the program that they will be spending 14 months of their lives in (and not to mention over $22,000 on!). The M.Ed. program is not set in stone for the domestic students and the same should apply for international students.

    References

    Brock University. Master of Education ISP. Retrieved from http://www.brocku.ca/education/futurestudents/graduateed/internationmastersofed/programdescription.

    Côté, J. E., & Allahar, A. L. (2011). Lowering higher education: The rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.

    Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (2012). Strengthening Ontario’s centre for creativity, innovation, and knowledge: A discussion paper on innovation to make our university and college system stronger. Toronto, ON: Government of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/publications/DiscussionStrengtheningOntarioPSE.pdf
    .
    Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Retrieved from http://www.cautbulletin.ca/en_article.asp?articleid=3026.

  2. Amanda, thank you for your very informative post. I believe you clearly and fairly presented both sides of the inclusion/seclusion international student argument. As domestic graduate students, there are a lot of things we take for granted, including the critical benefit of learning in our own preferred native language. From within my own limited student experience at Brock, I have not previously had the opportunity to fully question the impact and implications of what the M.Ed. ISP student experience must be like in comparison.

    Similar to Megan and yourself, I also question the concern of admission fees international students are required to pay (Marino, 2014; Porier, 2014). However, I think it is also valuable to examine this topic in relation to university administration and bureaucracy. When recruiting students, many Canadian institutions are looking to expand their revenue, thus opening the pool of potential student audiences (O’Rourke, 2012). Through admitting international students, post-secondary educational institutions make a large profit from international students’ tuition fees that are almost double the amount in comparison to domestic students (Brock University, 2013). Maybe we need to look into, and question the aims and purposes behind the rational of admitting international students. One question that comes to mind includes: Is the enrollment of international students just based on increasing institutional revenue? Similarly, as Lee and Wesche (2000) aim to suggest, Canadian International student enrollments are “viewed as an important – even essential – source of revenue by post-secondary institutions” (Lee and Wesche, 2000: 638). Therefore, if universities are primarily concerned with attracting international students to help source their income, perhaps the value of the student experience is ranked as a lower priority?

    Furthermore, Masters programs are already difficult, without the added challenge of completing one in a second language. As Brock supports, students are encouraged to enroll in ‘mentorship’ opportunities that help bridge the diverse cultural gap as students practice accepted communication and social skills (Brock, 2013). But to bring forth both perspectives, I question some of the potential implications of supporting the full inclusion of international students in courses. I specially question if international students are properly prepared for full English graduate courses? Would they be prone to falling behind and thus receiving low grades or failing the course? As Andrade’s (2006) research uncovered, international students often cited linguistic and communicational barriers that led to in their lack of ability to successfully take part in exclusively English-based classroom discussions, which hindered their final grades. Additionally, I am weary of the impact on the quality of education that domestic students demand at the cost of supporting international students in the same courses. Specifically, what will happen to the quality of learning for domestic students with the integration of international students in the same courses? As Friesen and Keeney (2013) warn, domestic students’ learning and quality of education is potentially at risk of being compromised and eroded due to international student classroom presence.

    Nonetheless, these are perhaps some issues that need to be considered when looking into the impact of this issue from both student groups’ perspectives. Parallel to the blog post and previous review, I support the inclusion of domestic and international students, or at least the opportunity to give some of the international students (who have English speaking experience and a concrete understanding) the option to enroll in one or two final masters courses. Perhaps, campuses could find a balance between both scenarios that would benefit the learning of all M.Ed and M.Ed. ISP students. However, while there is a good argument to include the M.Ed. ISP students into M.Ed. courses (Marino, 2014), it is also valuable to assess the issue from multiple perspectives in order to gain a full understanding of the potential impacts and implications on both student populations.

    Amanda, here is an interesting opinion post for some additional relevant reading: ‘Internationalizing the Canadian campus: ESL students and the erosion of higher education’. From: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/internationalizing-the-canadian-campus.aspx

    References

    Andrade, M. S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors.” Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), 131-154.

    Brock University (2013). International Students. Retrieved from https://discover.brocku.ca/Graduate_Study/internationalstudents.ezc

    Friesen, N., & Kenney, P. (2013, August 7). Internationalizing the Canadian campus: ESL students and the erosion of higher education. University Affairs, Retrieved from http://www.universityaffairs.ca/internationalizing-the-canadian-campus.aspx

    Lee, K. & Wesche, M. (2000) ‘Korean students’ adaptation to post-secondary studies in Canada: A case study’. Canadian Modern Language Review, 56(4): 637–89.

    Marino, A. (2014, March 20). Re: Higher Education at Brock University: An Inclusive Environment for International Students? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://5p52highereducation.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/higher-education-at-brock-university-an-inclusive-environment-for-international-students/

    O’Rourke, C. (2012). Teaching qualifications for doctoral students. In M. Kompf & P. M. Denicolo (Eds.), Critical Issues in Higher Education (pp. 67-81). Retrieved from http://download.springer.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/static/pdf/703/bok%253A978-94-6209-046-0.pdf?auth66=1395425752_1bbb01496e92aa568bff092a22f302d0&ext=.pdf

    Poirier, M. (2014, March 21). Re: Higher Education at Brock University: An Inclusive Environment for International Students? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://5p52highereducation.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/higher-education-at-brock-university-an-inclusive-environment-for-international-students/

  3. Keep in mind that international students pay the full cost of education, as opposed to the tax-payer (government) subsidized one that the rest of us pay. This is true in many (most?) places – even countries that have free education charge significant amounts for non-residents.

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