Opportunities for cultural integration are being inefficiently utilised by Australian Universities, proving to have greater implications as international student enrolment increases. In todays globalised workforce, cross-cultural competence has never been so relevant. Unfortunately, lack of interaction between domestic and international students has produced feelings of isolation, lack of engagement and little diversity within friendship groups. An increase in programs that encourage integration and a change in classroom attitudes can prove effective when developing relationships and teamwork amongst students.
The ability to effectively understand, communicate and work with people from different cultures has become essential for any student looking to work in the globalised market. In order to adequately prepare graduates for cross-cultural teamwork, domestic students should be provided with opportunities to cultivate relationships with international students. Research recently conducted by Culture Bridge concluded that 88% of participants identify cross-cultural competence as a relevant skill to their future careers and agree that having multicultural students enhances learning. Multiculturalism is especially significant in a country like Australia; that is home to people from all backgrounds with over 49% of the population being either first or second-generation immigrants.
Despite cross-cultural competence becoming increasingly relevant in today’s global workforce, Australian Universities are failing to adequately utilise opportunities that foster relationships between student circles, leading to increased exclusion and cultural groupings amongst international students. The prospect of communicating and working with domestic students is one of the key factors drawing international students to Australian Universities. Unfortunately, our research has revealed that almost two-thirds of international students have little to no domestic friends. Most of these students often feel isolated from other groups, causing an increase in social circles made up of individuals from their home country.
The largest issues faced by international students include language barriers, cultural differences and lack of opportunities for interaction with domestic students. According to the 2018 ANU Survey Report conducted by Culture Bridge, almost 60% of international students felt that Universities did not provide adequate opportunities for interaction. At Monash University, 50% of surveyed students reported that more can be done to overcome prejudice and discrimination against international students, and over 73% admitted to not being aware of any cross-cultural events occurring.
Considering the importance of multiculturalism, it is assumed that Australian Universities would engage in programs that encourage greater interaction between international and domestic students. Unfortunately, student feedback suggests that the issue of cultural integration is being undervalued and not managed effectively. A strategy to address this is to implement more programs that encourage cross-cultural interaction in order to provide more opportunities for international students to diversify their friendship groups and also allow students to create strong international networks, increasing their capacity for global connection which may prove helpful in the future. Another strategy is encouraging greater contribution in a classroom setting. Many international students feel nervous to engage in tutorials and lectures due to language barriers. Implementing processes that make international students feel more comfortable can lead to higher levels of collaboration, teamwork and also counteract the perception among domestic students that international students are less active and don’t participate in group projects. This approach could also be used to teach relevant cultural skills to domestic students, increasing their global competency. Surveys conducted by Culture Bridge have concluded that a cross-cultural shift is encouraged and desired by both international and domestic students at Monash University, highlighting the lack of and need for these initiatives.
In order for international students to adequately interact with domestic students and form mixed social groups, increased opportunities for interaction need to be established.
As competing universities realise the significance of multicultural inclusion, Australian Universities may experience a decrease in popularity if these issues are not addressed. In order to sustain higher engagement and integration, cross-cultural relationships should be encouraged and fostered by the tertiary sector.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017):
2018 ANU Survey Report:
2018 Monash Survey Report:
Partnerships Director at Monash Culture Bridge