The following guidance notes are designed to help create and maintain an inclusive learning environment for international students. Although the term “international student” usually refers to a student who has travelled abroad to study, which is now almost one in five in the UK, there is a perceived negative connotation of the term which implicitly labels international students as different to UK students (Scudamore, 2013). However, being based outside of the UK, and with less than 10% of our students from the UK, we use the term inclusively. Even though this international cultural diversity creates an extremely rich learning environment for undergraduate designers, it is not without its challenges for both students and tutors.
Under the UK Equality Act, 2010 it is unlawful for any education provider to discriminate between students (discrimination occurs when one student is treated less favourably than another). Inclusive learning and teaching seeks address this problem by creating a learning environment which engages all students equally and fully, regardless of background (Equality Act, 2010; Thomas & May, 2010). By ascertaining the challenges that international students face, problems can be addressed and solutions found by making “reasonable adjustments” (Thomas & May, 2010). Having a firm commitment to inclusive teaching and learning through curriculum content design and delivery, assessment and feedback will make all learning relevant to students entering a global society (Montgomery, 2008).
International students can often face problems adjusting to a new environment which is different from their country of origin. Students with English as a second language may encounter difficulties in lectures and with academic writing, they may also struggle with differences in learning styles such as a greater focus on independent learning. We have also found that assessment criteria and marking systems can vary widely from what international students are used to in their home countries, causing confusion over grades. Of course, there may also be wider issues, such as an international student being homesick or feeling alienated socially which will also have an impact on their learning and student experience.