LEAP OF FAITH
form connections with Chinese employers and help their
Chinese graduates navigate the job search back home.
Nicol agrees. “Universities need to be engaging with
employers in Asia to establish a pipeline of talent,” she says.
“If they need to provide careers advice and guidance for all
of their students, they need to provide more support to their
international cohort going back.”
Several universities do so via their alumni network. “We
connect students to alumni who have got back to their
countries to help them with employability queries back
home,” Lorris Leung at University Canada West explains.
But for many institutions, this is still a challenging area.
“I don’t know how the challenge will be resolved, because
of course, it’s difficult to give the same level of support and
expertise to every international student,” says UKCISA’s Al-len.
“But there are some nationalities which are represented
in greater numbers, so institutions could start by having staff
specialised in those countries.”
UKCISA is contributing to funding Universities UK-com-missioned
research into the provision of post-study work
advice for students returning home, she adds.
Dedicated language support
Meanwhile, a program at Monash University in Melbourne,
Australia, is serving as a role model regarding English
language support for international students. Its manager,
Marta Spes-Skrbis, tells The PIE that three other institutions
have taken the peer-to-peer model of her English Connect
program and are now running it at their institutions.
“It’s a model that is not super expensive, and it makes
a difference,” she says. Created in 2015 to respond to
58 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #24
students’ demand for more conversational English support,
English Connect started with a peer-to-peer conversation
class called ‘Let’s Chat’.
Peers, trained and paid, form the backbone of the pro-gram,
which often recruits among education, TESOL or
linguistics students to ensure those running workshops and
seminars have a firm grasp of the field.
During the first semester, the program had space for 120
students and received 800 applications. “This year in these
same classes we are getting about 3,000 students through
the Let’s Chat program, and around 15,000 across the whole
English Connect program,” Spes-Skrbis explains.
“The point for the students was that they would come to
these classes to improve their English and make friends.”
The English Connect team found that the measure for
a sense of belonging had improved substantially since the
beginning of the program. And the participants’ mental
health was also positively impacted. “Students told us that
attending these classes helps reduce stress and improve
their mental wellbeing,” Spes-Skrbis recalls. “They develop
a sense of belonging with the university, which means the
engagement is much better and they are feeling connected
with others, which will impact their mental health.”
“Academic English is really growing,” Spes-Skrbis tells
The PIE, adding that this is a sector-wide trend. “Universities
in Australia are starting to invest more in that area.”
And if The PIEoneer Awards are anything to go by, some
are doing an excellent job: English Connect was last year’s
winner in the student support category – and this year the
prize has been snapped by fellow Australian institution,
Griffith University, for its Griffith English Language Enhance-ment
Strategy (GELES). This program commits to ensuring
international students finish their degrees with better Eng-lish
than when they started.
Griffith University’s Sarah Todd
(right) accepting The PIEoneer
Award for Student Support 2019
for Griffith’s GELES program
PHOTO: ROGER HARRIS PHOTOGRAPHY
“The program had
space for 120 students
and received 800