international student engagement research project launched

The group of academics, consisting of Ly Tran, Jill Blackmore, Danielle Hartridge, Helen Forbes-Mewett, Renata Aldana and Diep Nguyen and in partnership with Insider Guides, will seek to identify enabling and inhibiting factors for support provision for international students, and showcase good practices as well as those that are not sustainable or effective.

The project, funded by Australia’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment, is one of a handful that the government is funding in a bid to support the implementation of the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030.

The team has previously conducted considerable research on supporting international students in intercultural connectedness, work-integrated learning and employability, teaching and learning, mental health and well-being, Ly Tran noted.

“We have a broad understanding of the principles underpinning good support provision but in this new project, we are going to identify what actual good practices look like and develop much more nuances on how to foster optimal student experiences across a range of areas,” she explained.

The researchers will gather insights from ELICOS, school, VET and higher education providers across the public and private sectors in Australia and overseas.

The group is keen to hear voices and experiences of a wide range of community bodies, professional organisations, government departments, state and territory government, local councils, employers, ethnic organisations, youth associations, business councils, accommodation providers, and OSHC providers, Tran continued.

“Catering for international students’ needs during crises has emerged as a critical area of international student support that warrants more nuanced understandings”

“We are also keen to hear from international students and graduates, and student organisations,” she said. “We want to gather information about their experiences with effective programs and activities that facilitate their engagement, their needs and perspectives about engagement with domestic peers, education providers, support services, potential employers and local communities, including the factors enabling or inhibiting this engagement.”

The funding comes from the government’s $10 million international education innovation fund, announced in February 2022, which allocated $300,000 to “develop a best practice guide for the sector on international student engagement”.

“Catering for international students’ needs during crises, including war, geopolitical, health, financial and disaster crises, has emerged as a critical area of international student support that warrants more nuanced understandings so as to set the foundation for building good practices to support this cohort,” Tran explained.

Current research suggests it is crucial for good support provision is inclusive and responsive to students’ diverse needs, and empathy must be at the centre of any support program. It also needs to “be context-situated and adaptable so that it can be responsive to the factors influencing the changing context, related to policy, cohorts, sectors or emerging crises”, Tran stated.

“Support services would be more effective if they capitalise on and provide opportunity for international students to co-design and enact agency in enhancing the support for themselves and their peers,” she added.

“Our project is set out to expand our current knowledge and build the evidence base to develop appropriate support in this area.”

If you would like to share an example of good practice and be kept informed of its progress and outcome, please send an email to [email protected]

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