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Academic Word List: Exercise 53

Read the following text, paying particular attention to the highlighted words.

Overseas Students in Higher Education

The United Kingdom' s higher education system has changed dramatically during the past decade. Government has decreed that the life and work of universities and colleges should become increasingly accountable to public scrutiny. The system must demonstrate that public funds are used responsibly and effectively to promote high quality teaching and research. Increasingly funding for both research and teaching is being linked to the quality of provision. Institutions are being encouraged to rely less exclusively upon funding sourced from taxation and to seek other means of raising their income by becoming more entrepreneurial within the wider educational marketplace.

It is the pressures upon higher education which, in part, provide the impetus for this book. One of the distinctive ways in which institutions are aiming to expand their activities and increase their income is by developing significantly the courses that they offer for overseas students. There have been dramatic increases in the numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate overseas students within the system. As this aspect of university and college activity has burgeoned it has become apparent that the quality of the teaching and learning offered to overseas students must be maintained and enhanced and also become subject to audit. The central aim of this book is to draw upon the developing literature, expertise and experience which focus upon the delivery of courses for overseas students and to offer a useful resource for those academic staff who have a measure of responsibility for teaching and sustaining the quality of overseas students' learning experiences. In addition, it is hoped that the book will be of interest to overseas students who are contemplating or embarking upon programmes of study in the United Kingdom.

The expansion in overseas students numbers has been noteworthy during the past decade. In 1973 there were 35,000 Students in Higher Education in HIEs in the UK. This was followed by a decline in the early 1980s, and by dramatic growth in the early 1990s so that by 1992 numbers had risen to 95,000 (CVCP 1995a: 2.2). This increase can he accounted for by a decline in the real cost of courses for overseas students, steady per capita growth in the principal consuming countries, and the expansion of the student base in UK institutions (ibid.). Currently one third of overseas students are postgraduates, and Students in Higher Education are concentrated in three main academic areas: Engineering, Technology, Social Science, and Business and Finance (ibid: 2.3).

Within the global context (setting aside the USA' s dominant 70 per cent share) the UK is a major player in the provision of courses for overseas students and has 17 per cent of the total overseas student population, with one third from the European Union (CVCP 1995a: 5.3). It should be noted that it is predicted that the global supply of overseas student places will increase, and expected that the UK will endeavour to expand its volume in response to constraints in home student numbers, the higher fees Students in Higher Education command and the move to increase postgraduate numbers (ibid: 5.5).

Overseas students are having a significant impact upon the economies of UK higher education institutions. In broad terms their economic impact arises from the export of educational services from the UK so that student fees and expenditure represent an injection into the circular flow of income (CVCP 1995a: 3.2-3.3) even discounting EU students, funded at undergraduate level and paid for by the UK Treasury, the value of fees of fully funded overseas students was 310 million in 1992-3 (ibid: 3.31). In addition, their expenditure on UK-produced goods and services is estimated to be at least 405 million in 1992-3 (ibid.: 3.32). In total this sums to twice the value of UK exports of coal, gas and electricity in the same year (ibid: 3.33). In terms of the benefit to institutions themselves, on average 5.1 per cent of ' old' university income depends on Students in Higher Education and 2.2 per cent in ' new' universities. There are also, of course, non-economic benefits arising from overseas student provision such as the promotion of the English language and culture and fostering understanding between races. In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that the government is keen to promote the export of educational services as a means of promoting economic growth (see for example DTI 1995).

According to a wide ranging recent survey, the main reasons why overseas students decide to study in the UK rather than anywhere else are: that the English Language is spoken UK qualifications are recognised by the home government and companies the standard and quality of education in the UK the international reputation of UK education the presence of well known universities and that students are already used to the English system of education (Allen and Higgins 1994: 22, table 20). The two main reasons they decided to go to their current institution rather than elsewhere in the UK were the academic reputation of the institution (for 27.8 per cent) and the content of the course (for 20.8 per cent) (ibid: 39, table 27).

Given the importance that overseas students attach to the quality of UK institutions and the courses they offer, it is essential that quality is maintained. There have, however, in recent years been concerns that the rapid expansion in overseas courses could have an effect upon quality. For instance an editorial in the Times Higher Education Supplement (1994) opined that there was a danger that the recruitment of overseas students was being driven too much by the pursuit of money to support an under-funded system and too little by genuine educational considerations. The need to maintain quality has been recognised within the system and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP) has recently issued a relevant Code of Practice (CVCP 1995b). The introduction by the Chairman of the CVCP demonstrates higher education' s determination to maintain high standards and quality control. As he says: ' The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals seeks to encourage the commitment of institutions to providing value for the investment made by and on behalf of their Students in Higher Education by developing and applying consistent procedures in the recruitment and support of such students.'

It is evident that higher education institutions must pay particular attention to the quality of the teaching and learning which they offer for overseas students. With the establishment of a quality assurance system which ensures that higher education teaching is scrutinised on a regular basis and that external assessors' ratings are published (see for example HEFCE 1996 HEQC 1995), institutions have become very much more aware of the importance of teaching and concerned to enhance academic staff expertise in this crucial aspect of their roles. Many institutions now provide formal training in teaching methods and linked higher education teaching qualifications for their staff (SEDA 1996), and have established staff and educational development units to offer appropriate advice and support. There is an ever growing body of literature which brings together the pertinent research and expertise on teaching and learning in higher education and offers academic staff a valuable resource (see for example Brown and Atkins 1988 CVCP 1992a Ramsden 1992 Wilkin 1995). There is, however, within the available corpus very little mention of overseas students and the special problems they present when studying in the UK environment (but see Makepeace 1989 and Ballard and Clancy 1991 for an Australian example). It is an apposite time, therefore, to make available for the wider academic community the burgeoning body of information on teaching and learning which has a direct bearing upon overseas students studying in the UK higher education system. This book comprises invited chapters from colleagues who have experience and a particular interest in working with overseas students. The aim is not to supply ' tips for teachers' but rather to bring to tutors' attention theoretical perspectives, empirical studies, informing principles and experience which have a bearing upon overseas students' learning in the UK as the host country. It is hoped that the information will help sensitise academic staff to the problems encountered by both students and tutors and also offer interpretive frameworks which will aid reflection upon practice and develop proposals for improving practice.

In education there is no easy distinction between an entity known as ' theory' and another referred to as ' practice' . Theory should have some bearing upon the ' real world' of practice and our actual practices are always informed by either covert or overt theoretical assumptions. As we all know, there is nothing so practical as a good theory. The contributors to the book have, depending upon their substantive subject matter and the manner in which they treat their topics, given different emphases to theoretical and practical matters. We have used this consideration as the principle for arranging the sequence of chapters. We begin with those that place a greater stress upon policy issues which may inform and guide educational practices and we move on to those which give a greater emphasis to practical considerations. We divide the chapters up into two sections, Part I, ' Principles: perspectives and orientation' and Part II, ' Practice: supporting learning' , but we are well aware that the division between them is somewhat arbitrary.

(Overseas students in higher education by David McNamara and Robert Harris)

Now try the exercises: Exercise a, Exercise b


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