From Expectation to Experience: The Voice of International Students at a UK University

By Gautam Rajkhowa and Yogender Singh Raghav.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The landscape of higher education has been changing over the past two decades. In 2009, the estimated number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship was almost 3.7 million (OECD 2011). The international activities of universities in the United Kingdom (UK) have expanded dramatically in volume, scope and complexity over the last decade. The United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs’ (UKCISA) figures indicate that between 1997-98 and 2007-08, there has been an 96% increase in international students studying in the UK. In 2010-11, there were 428,225 international students in the UK (UKCISA). In these circumstances, therefore, it is extremely vital for the universities to look at issues also from the perspective of the international students to be able to identify and manage any gap that may exist between the ‘expectations’ and ‘experiences’ of a globally mobile student population. This paper presents findings from a study that was conducted to examine the expectations and experiences of international students at a university in the UK that is relatively new to attracting international students to its campus-based programmes. Using an adapted version of the SERVQUAL framework, the study found that while the student experience has been generally positive, there were gaps between student ‘expectations’ and their ‘experiences’ of the “on ground realities.” Given the likely continued growth in international student mobility, the study presents some pointers for universities to address if they intend not only to maintain but also to develop their reputation in an ever increasing internationally competitive environment of global rankings and league tables.

Keywords: International Student Expectation versus Experience, Expectation versus Reality, SERVQUAL, International Student Mobility, Internationalisation of Higher Education, Study Abroad

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.47-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 931.253KB).

Gautam Rajkhowa

Senior Lecturer, Chester Business School, University of Chester, Chester, Cheshire, UK

Gautam Rajkhowa is Senior Lecturer of Business Policy & the Programme Director for the full-time MBA programme at the University of Chester, UK. His teaching covers Strategy, International Business, Service Management and Business Ethics at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels. He is particularly interested in understanding organisational responses to broader environment issues in the business landscape and translating this into a vehicle for use in the classroom. His research is focused on issues related to the internationalisation of higher education, in particular issues surrounding student mobility, student expectations, transnational education and institutional responses to the broader opportunities and challenges presented by the dynamic world of international higher education. As Programme Director of the full-time MBA programme at the University of Chester, he works closely with students from across the world and with diverse education and cultural backgrounds. He also works closely with mature students from across the world on Distance Learning programmes that use both paper-based as well as technology-mediated platforms. Gautam has presented his work at several International conferences including the World Universities Forum since its inception in 2007. Prior to moving to academia in 1994, Gautam spent over 12 years in executive education, product management and market development in the information technology solutions space.

Yogender Singh Raghav

University of Chester, UK


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