How UK Universities Can Help Overseas Students Deal with Academic Shock

Young Academic Editor Charles Whitworth reports on the challenges that face foreign students in the United Kingdom. In some rather intriguing student news, Dr Janette Ryan has revealed that many overseas students may suffer from academic shock as they struggle to deal with differing approaches to learning.

The number of international students in UK universities increases every year and this is not just in specific subjects such as I.T and Business. In previous years, this had only been the case for speciality or niche courses but nowadays the entire further education system is increasingly diverse and multicultural.

“Academic shock basically occurs when a student realises that different learning and teaching approaches and forms of assessment are in place and they start to worry that they won’t cope.”


As a result of this, many universities have taken steps to help the integration of overseas students and improve their experience here in the UK. From the first lecture to the first assignment submission – it is surely important to monitor how comfortable foreign students are with their learning environment.

Following the coalition’s mass destruction of the education system, from the National Curriculum to Higher Education, lecturers must surely be asking themselves questions about how to best teach foreign students. With less resource available with which to do their job and rising numbers of foreign students, lecturer’s jobs will not be envied by their peers.

Dr Ryan conveys in her recent column in The Guardian that the teaching of students from overseas can often be a rewarding experience and also offers more depth during class discussions. Although slight modifications are needed to teaching style, it is worth noting that this has benefited both UK and foreign students.

Induction is seen as they key period of time for students. This may be more significant for students from abroad but it set the tone for the rest of the course. If students can get off to a good start, the chances of obtaining the desired grade are boosted significantly.  As such, some universities are introducing longer term transition programmes for international students and many others are being encouraged to do the same.

Culture shock is an issue that undoubtedly affects many people, with individuals moving to different countries to work on a daily basis. This type of shock is with regard to physical environment, customs and practices and is hard enough to deal with when trying to move on. Academic shock is an entirely a different kettle of fish altogether. This basically occurs when a student realises that different learning and teaching approaches and forms of assessment are in place and they start worry that they won’t cope. Add in language shock and there are suddenly a range of factors that overseas students have to deal with.

Luckily, the Higher Education Academy’s Teaching International Students Project has been put into place to help foreign students deal with such problems. The scheme supports higher education teachers in helping international students and is centred around the lifecycle of a student from abroad.

Of course, the success of international students is not important solely for the pupil. The institutions will be able to revel in the glory of being seen as a foreign student-friendly university and will surely see a rise in admissions as a result.

Dr Ryan also outlines some key areas that can be improved on in order to make life easier for student studying from a foreign country.

Broadening the curriculum to give it a more global perspective can mean reviewing the content, but it can also be about giving time in sessions to considering how professional practices might differ across the world.

To increase awareness of critical thinking skills, it can be helpful to show examples from your own work that demonstrate criticality or model your own thinking and writing.

Encouraging participation in seminars might involve using structured discussion formats such as rounds or turn-taking systems or moving about the classroom – this often encourages students to be more engaged and willing to answer.

To read Dr Janette Ryan’s blog at The Guardian, click here. And to keep up to date with all of your UK student news pieces, features, career guides and profiles, make sure you follow the Young Academic facebook page, twitter and RSS feed. @youngacademic.


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