International student expectations : undergraduate student voices in an Australian university
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The education of full-fee paying international students is a multi-billion dollar business in Australia. One consequence of global market growth is the entry of new and increasingly aggressive competitors in the international marketplace who are gaining market share at the expense of traditional suppliers such as Australia. This has opened a new dimension in the discourse: the imperative of commercial sustainability in international education and its effect on good practice. Students from the Indian subcontinent represent a fast growing but also a volatile demographic for Australian universities. This study explores the experiences of a cohort of Sub-continental international students studying a Bachelor of Accounting degree in an Australian university. It was conducted on the city campus of a teaching-intensive university that caters exclusively to full-fee paying international students. The work captures a cross-sectional appreciation of the perceptions of the student sample during their learning journey in Australia. The research takes the approach of problematising student expectations in order to generate questions investigated through a survey questionnaire and in interviews with students on site. The study seeks to engage with students' voices through dialogue with the researcher. The framework for analysis is grounded in a symposium approach and an appreciation of four theoretical fields of international education, literacy and critical thinking, commercial practice, and the policy agendas surrounding international education in Australia, to create a trans-disciplinary perspective of teaching as business. To date, there exist no published studies of Sub-continental student experiences which have conducted this particular kind of enquiry. The research finds that these students' perceptions are reflected within and across the theoretical constructs and can thus be used to derive a better appreciation of value in an international education experience. International students' perception of value is found to derive in the first instance from satisfaction of their expectations as a consumer-student. Such students' perception of value is found to be further enhanced, and satisfaction in their other role as a student-consumer improved, if constructs of difference between international and domestic students are no longer problematised within the discourse. The study presents an alternative holistic conceptual frame for theorising agendas in international education. That frame foregrounds student expectations in order to improve the practice of international education. The research outcome paves the way for proposing what might constitute an equitable, ethical and sustainable interaction between business and education that can strengthen the prestige and commercial position of Australian universities in the global market of services.
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