Critical review and reimagining of experiences of navigating higher education for Indigenous and International students in post COVID Australia 

Year: 2021

Author: Hill, Guzyal, Woodroffe, Tracy, Golebiowska, Kate

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This paper brings novel insights to our knowledge by conducting a comparative review of the literature on the experiences of Indigenous students and international students at tertiary institutions in Australia. It unpacks and critically compares how preparatory programs and other university-wide support programs and strategies enable these two cohorts navigate and address challenges they encounter on campus and beyond.  Our approach is motivated by the notable absence of studies exploring the shared characteristics and needs of these two cohorts. We argue that recognising and understanding these commonalities might help universities develop more effective support strategies and programs that would be based on learning from the Indigenous to international contexts and vice versa. The other motivation is that the studies released in the second part of the 2020 when COVID-19 still had a stronghold globally, suggest that Indigenous and international students returning now to classes need more and better tailored support to thrive academically and have an on-going sense of well-being.  We critically review the available literature with a view to (a) establish the variations in the characteristics and needs of these two groups, (b) where the types of assistance and support already overlap, and (c) what strategies, approaches and programs are currently offered to support one of these groups only, and which could be extended or adapted to the other.  We do not propose that the support strategies and programs for Indigenous students and international students be combined. In fact, certain characteristics and needs of each cohort would make this difficult. For example, some Indigenous students who receive any of the ABSTUDY support for the first time may need to learn how to interact with the Australian Government and its study assistance schemes. Conversely, international students need to observe their visa conditions regarding university attendance, which is often combined with observing international student employment conditions.  Rather, this research has implications for practice in equipping the academic and professional staff supporting Indigenous and international students with ideas and strategies to consider in their respective practices, potentially enhancing their quality, effectiveness and efficiency. In the current financial climate where universities in Australia have had to review their finances due to the impacts of COVID-19, sharing knowledge to better serve these two student cohorts may be a valuable proposition.