Transition into undergraduate and postgraduate study for international students

The diversity of prior experience of students from outside the UK means they have a wide range of different induction needs.

Support to acclimatise

In the early weeks and months, international students are not only dealing with the same challenges associated with moving to a different study level and new University environment experienced by UK students, but are additionally coping with adjusting to unfamiliar social and cultural norms; different academic methods and values; for some, studying and interacting intensively in a second language for the first time; and being too far from family to go back for an occasional weekend of home comforts.

As exciting as it is to be starting at Leeds, this combination of factors creates the conditions for many international students to experience more discomfort during transition and to take longer to be operating confidently. It is difficult for them to process and act on large quantities of new academic-related information at the same time as adapting to the wider context of life at Leeds.

Many students will be coping with culture shock during their early weeks and months. So it is important to provide multiple opportunities to absorb new information and adjust to unfamiliar aspects of UK study, by offering induction support and study skills development which starts before students arrive and extends well beyond the first week.

An inclusive and integrated academic community

Students from outside the UK are likely to be unfamiliar with a lot of British-specific content and will be used to different varieties of English, so such content and the language used during induction should be adjusted or explained in order to be inclusive. Some small group support is also valuable to provide a recap of key information and an easier space to ask questions.

Creating opportunities during induction for international students to demonstrate the value they bring to the learning community through their prior experience and international background is important, to counterbalance the focus on the need to adapt in order to be successful in Leeds, and to stimulate interest in integration rather than segregation of UK and international students.

The International Student Barometer scores indicate that Leeds is performing less well than competitors on international students’ satisfaction ratings for feeling safe and secure and making British friends. So it is important to ensure induction engenders a sense of belonging to a welcoming academic community, through providing content and activity that is inclusive, and supports both UK and international students to have positive interactions with peers from different cultural backgrounds and to get to know key staff, at the earliest opportunity.

The transition into undergraduate and postgraduate study for International Students good practice guide provides student perspectives and highlights good practice to aid schools in evaluation and refresh of their current transitional support programme. This guide should be read in conjunction with the transition guides for UK undergraduates and postgraduates, as much of the support needs and good practice identified also apply to international students.