LEAP OF FAITH
“They became aware that a number
of students coming into the UK had never
had any sexual health education
“There is a lot of research that shows that the transition
into higher education in particular for international students
can be challenging, but it’s really important to give appro-priate
support for them to perform well,” she says.
Dundee’s video series fell into this category, and so did a
project by Keele University’s student union to arrange ongo-ing
induction programs for international students joining
later in the academic year.
Another recurring research theme was teaching and
learning, and quite a few of the projects have become very
focused on student involvement, moving away from seeing
international students as “needing help” and encouraging
them instead to capitalise on the skills they bring into the
UK; using such skills for their benefit and that of their do-mestic
peers. Peer-assisted learning, a model employed by
several student support programs, has also gained traction.
Some have tackled tricky subjects, such as a project by
Sheffield Hallam University, where a team developed a
sexual health education toolkit and blog that is available for
the sector. “They became aware that a number of students
coming into the UK had never had any sexual health educa-tion,
50 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #24
and most people don’t find this easy to talk about.
They successfully tackled a very tricky subject, with complex
cultural implications,” says Allen. The project won the Paul
Webley Award for innovation in international education.
But the strongest theme, Allen says, is mental health sup-port.
This is something every single stakeholder interviewed
has echoed, as institutions are gearing up to cater for increa-sing
numbers of international students and there is pressure
on existing mental health support services.
Along with mental health services, institutions are show-ing
a drive to foster a sense of belonging by fostering social
connections among students.
“There’s definitely a drive to provide more social activi-ties,”
comments Julie Barker, non-executive director at the
UK’s Colleges and Universities Business Officers. “Especially
those designed to support cultural understanding, but also
help international students make local friends.”
LGBTQ+ support is also a developing area for internatio-nal
student support teams. At the Memorial University of
Newfoundland, Canada, staff have been encouraged to add
pronouns under their signature, so that dialogue around fluid
gender identity can be initiated.
“We are trying to develop our own understanding of
gender, and how to support international students who
are transgender or are trying to come out about the
gender identity that they are not able to express at home,”
elaborates director of the internationalisation office, Sonja
Knutson from St John.
“I think for some students, part of the reason why they are
interested in going to a place like Canada is to feel free to
express that gender identity,” she adds.
For Kevin Beisser, senior immigration coordinator at the
Center for International Education at the University of Wis-consin-
Milwaukee in the US, a relatively new and ever-pre-sent
thought for US institutions is combating anti-immigrant
Institutions are offering more social activities,
especially those designed to support cultural