Studying in one culture whilst working in another

Year: 2001

Author: Hemmings, Brian, Kundalaputra, Chittrapa, Hill, Doug

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In recent years higher education institutions have enrolled a significant number of distance education students from overseas countries. These students need to become immersed in the life of the tertiary institutions and hopefully become enculturated. Culture in this context helps define a set of beliefs about what students do and how they are expected to work. The study which is reported here was an evaluation of joint foreign-Thai doctoral programs in which the students remained working in their own higher education institution in Thailand whilst studying part-time by distance education with an Australian or British university. These students, however, remained immersed in the culture of their own workplace and felt relatively isolated from other students in the study programs. The students also experienced a number of problems in their studies due to uncertainty, which is common with new programs, where there is no transfer of information from one generation of students to the next generation. That is, students were not sure of particular study requirements and lacked appropriate support from various groups such as family and colleagues. The culture of the students' workplace supported the rejection of new and different programs. As well, the additional time required to work in English was not always appreciated by students or by the staff of the foreign universities. Some of these difficulties were overcome, in part, through study visits to the university and through visits of staff members to work with students for short study blocks in Thailand.