How well are Chinese international students prepared academically by their home institutions: A study of 2+2 program students at an Australian university

Year: 2019

Author: Wang, Yingxian, Bai, Li

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

International students seeking cross-border academic degrees report having experienced various kinds of academic challenges in their overseas studies. One of the purposes of joint programs is to prepare students academically so that they can transition smoothly into the host academic culture. However, among the plethora of studies examining international students’ academic experiences, few have focused on students' pre-departure preparation in academic subjects. This study aims to fill the research gap by exploring the pre-study academic preparation of Chinese students in Sino-Australian 2+2 programs where students are prepared at their Chinese home universities in English and foundation business courses for two years before they come to complete their degree at the Australian university in the remaining two years.

Qualitative face-to-face interviews were conducted with 22 Chinese students doing the business degree on the 2+2 joint programs between four Chinese institutions and an Australian university. The interview language used was Mandarin Chinese(the native language of both the participants and the interviewer) for ease of communication and capture of nuances of meaning.

Thematic data analysis shows that more than half of the participants acknowledged and appreciated that their home institutions made particular efforts through courses delivery to prepare them for their subsequent overseas studies and that the course credits were transferable to the Australian university. However, they also pinpointed areas where improvements could be made such as the mismatch between English and Chinese terminology, the general and basic nature of the foundation courses, and the little study pressure at home as opposed to the daunting demand and overwhelming difficulties they experienced in their overseas academic study.

These findings present important implications for program managers on both sides and academics at the Chinese home institutions. The program managers should research the feasibility of adopting Chinese-English bilingual education mode in preparing these 2+2 students at the Chinese institutions. The Australian and Chinese sides need to work together to develop a teaching team capable of delivering bilingual instruction. The foundation courses at the Chinese universities also need to consider adopting some of the assessment forms used in the Australian universities to facilitate students’ transition.

As increasing number of collaborative programs are established between universities across-border, the significance of this study is that it not only provides implications for the joint program institutions in question and similar ongoing programs, but offers evidence on the basis of which future joint programs can optimise international students transition experience.