Tom Farrelly

Abstracts

2 International Students into the Irish Higher Education System: Supporting the Transition

Authors: Tom Farrelly, Tony Murphy, Yvonne Kavanagh

Abstract:

The sharp rise in international students into Ireland has provided colleges with a number of opportunities but also a number of challenges, both at an institutional and individual lecturer level and of course for the incoming student. Previously, Ireland’s population, particularly its higher education student population was largely homogenous, largely drawn from its own shores and thus reflecting the ethnic, cultural and religious demographics of the day. However, over the twenty years Ireland witnessed considerable economic growth, downturn and subsequent growth all of which has resulted in an Ireland that has changed both culturally and demographically. Propelled by Ireland’s economic success up to the late 2000s, one of the defining features of this change was an unprecedented rise in the number of migrants, both academic and economic. In 2013, Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (hereafter the National Forum) invited proposals for inter-institutional collaborative projects aimed at different student groups’ transitioning in or out of higher education. Clearly, both as a country and a higher education sector we want incoming students to have a productive and enjoyable time in Ireland. One of the ways that will help the sector help the students make a successful transition is by developing strategies and polices that are well informed and student driven. This abstract outlines the research undertaken by the five colleges Institutes of Technology: Carlow; Cork; Tralee & Waterford and University College Cork) in Ireland that constitute the Southern cluster aimed at helping international students transition into the Irish higher education system. The aim of the southern clusters’ project was to develop a series of online learning units that can be accessed by prospective incoming international students prior to coming to Ireland and by Irish based lecturing staff. However, in order to make the units as relevant and informed as possible there was a strong research element to the project. As part of the southern cluster’s research strategy a large-scale online survey using SurveyMonkey was undertaken across the five colleges drawn from their respective international student communities. In total, there were 573 responses from students coming from over twenty different countries. The results from the survey have provided some interesting insights into the way that international students interact with and understand the Irish higher education system. The research and results will act as a model for consistent practice applicable across institutional clusters, thereby allowing institutions to minimise costs and focus on the unique aspects of transitioning international students into their institution.

Keywords: Transitions, Digital, International, support

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1 Live and Learn in Ireland: Supporting International Students

Authors: Tom Farrelly, Yvoonne Kavanagh, Tony Murphy

Abstract:

In the last 20 years, Ireland has enjoyed an upsurge in the number of international students coming to avail of its well-regarded Higher Education system. While welcome, the influx of international students has posed a number of cultural, social and academic challenges for the Irish HE sector, both at institutional and individual lecturer level. Notwithstanding the challenge to the Irish HE sector, the difficulties that incoming students face needs to be acknowledged and addressed. For students who have never left their home country before the transition can be daunting even if they have not learned the customs and ways of the new country. In 2013, Ireland’s National Forum for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education invited submissions from interested parties to design and implement digital supports aimed at assisting students transitioning into or exiting higher education. Five colleges—the Institute of Technology, Tralee; University College Cork, Institute of Technology, Carlow; Cork Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology—collectively known as the Southern Cluster, were granted funding to research and develop digital objects to support international students' transition into the Irish higher education system. One of the key fundamentals of this project was its strong commitment to incorporating the student voice to help inform the design of the digital objects. The primary research method used to ascertain student views was the circulation of an online questionnaire using SurveyMonkey to existing international students in each of the five participant colleges. The questionnaire sought to examine the experiences and opinions of the students in relation to three main aspects of their living and studying in Ireland (hence the name of the project LiveAndLearnInIreland) (1) the academic environment (2) the social aspects of living in Ireland and (3) the practical aspects of living in Ireland. The response to the survey (n=573), revealed a number of sometimes surprising issues and themes for the digital objects to address. The research, therefore, offers insight into the types of concerns that any college, whether in Ireland or further afield, needs to take into consideration, if it is to genuinely assist what can be a difficult transition for the international student. That said, while there are a number of themes that emerged that have international implications there are other themes that have a particular resonance for the Irish HE sector.

Keywords: Inclusion, Transition, International, support

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