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Vol. 15, No. 2 


International Journal of Multicultural Education 


2013 


The Impact of Adopting a 
Mainstreamed Model of Service Provision: 
The Experiences of University Staff Members 

Sophia A. Harryba 
Edith Cowan University 

Shirlee-ann Knight 
Edith Cowan University 
Australia 


A qualitative case study examined the challenges of service provision and 
utilization regarding international students at an Australian university. Using a 
Social Constructivist Grounded Theory methodology, 73 participants were 
interviewed, including 38 staff members (16 academic, 22 non-academic), 25 
international students, and 10 domestic students. The university had recently 
changed its model of service provision from specialised to mainstreamed. All 
students became viewed as one cohort, with the same needs, accessing the 
same services. Challenges associated with this move were discussed, and it was 
found that opinions about the effects of the new model depended on the staff 
members’ role at the university and how much contact they had with 
international students. Teaching and support staff members reported struggling 
when working with international students under this model of service provision, 
and staff members reported facing challenges in providing support outside of 
their role descriptions, lack of specialised staff, and lack of specialised services. 
It was concluded that the use of this model, added to increasing enrolment 
numbers and decreasing support both for staff and students, could lead to an 
increased likelihood that some staff view and treat some international students 
with a “deficit” lens. 


Mainstreamed vs. Specialised Student Service Provision 
Students as Customers 

Evaluating Student Services in a Market Economy 
Limitation of Previous Research 
The Study 

Results and Findings 
Conclusion and Implications 
Notes 


In 2008, International Education (IE) was Australia’s third highest export 
after coal and iron ore, providing more than $15 billion per annum to the 
economy (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 
2008). IE has become one of the most significant exports for countries such as 
the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, which make up the top three 
Anglophone countries exporting education (Pimpa, 2003). As a competitive 
industry, universities within host countries have to attract these international 


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students so as to guarantee a continued flow of money to the economy, but also 
to ensure that universities reach their minimum annual intake of students (Paige, 
1990). Income from international student fees is needed for a number of 
purposes: to fund infrastructure and research, to cover staff salaries, and to pay 
for other goods and services used by onshore students (Beaton-Wells & 
Thompson, 2011; McKenzie, 2008). This income comes not only from 
international students’ tuition fees, but also from the travel and living expenses of 
these international students, their dependents, and visiting families and friends 
(Phillimore & Koshy, 2010). In addition to the economic benefits that IE brings, it 
has been reported that international students bring a number of social and 
cultural benefits as well (Carroll & Ryan, 2005). Studies have found that 
international students promote intercultural interaction (Kell & Vogl, 2008; Mahat 
& Hourigan, 2007), help reduce discrimination, and increase tolerance for 
different cultures (Bochner, 1986; de Wit, 1995; Gudykunst, 1998). 

Given the economic and sociocultural value of IE in Australia, concerns 
have been raised since there has been a general decline in commencement and 
enrolment numbers of onshore international students since the global recession 
began in 2008 (Pelletier, 2004). This qualitative study explores how an Australian 
university handles student services, particularly to international students, on 
campus. 


Mainstreamed vs. Specialised Student Service Provision 

Research has shown that international students can experience a number 
of academic and socio-cultural difficulties when transitioning to university 
(Mehdizadeh & Scott, 2005; Rahman & Rollock, 2004; Searle & Ward, 1990; 
Trice, 2003). Tinto’s model of student departure (Tinto, 1975) and other 
variations of this model (Bean & Metzner, 1985) suggest that the cost of student 
dropout is greater than the cost of providing appropriate support services to 
these students. Thus, depending on the model of service provision adopted by 
individual universities, different types of services aimed at different student 
cohorts have been developed to help lessen these student difficulties. Currently, 
there is limited research that focuses on the implications of the different models 
of service provision. 

Forbes-Mewett (2008) compared the specialised model of student support 
with the mainstream model as follows: 

Specialised student support allows for subjective elements and at the very 
least provides international students with a first point of call dedicated to 
catering for their unique needs. Mainstreaming, by contrast, assumes the 
problems of international and domestic students are largely homogenous, 
that neither group requires the assistance of professionals with specific 
skills, and that both can be provided for in the same manner, (p. 2) 

Mainstream models of student service provision assume that problems faced by 
university students, whether domestic or international, are largely homogenous 


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and are based on the belief that student groups do not require any specialised 
help (Forbes-Mewett, 2008). The effectiveness of basing university-wide 
approaches to student support on the assumption that students’ needs are 
largely the same was questioned by Forbes-Mewett who found that the university 
senior managers she interviewed admitted they had little to no contact with 
international students and lacked knowledge about their needs. 

Further, Schulz and Szekeres (2008) found that student services as a 
whole lacked on-the-ground efficiency when provided under a centralized model 
and that customer (i.e., student) satisfaction was needed to be considered when 
deciding which aspects of student administration services to offer centrally. They 
concluded that “a range of considerations” including “cost efficiency, consistency, 
customer satisfaction, process logic and institutional culture” needed to be 
evaluated continuously when considering university approaches to student 
support and administration (p. 269). 

Students as Customers 

There has been much debate regarding the use of marketing and 
business terminology, such as “customers” and “service providers” when 
referring to stakeholder in higher education (Baldwin, 1994; Hill, 1995; Pitman, 
2000; Ramachandran, 2010; Scott, 1999; Small, 2008). For most international 
students, full fees are required for their education; as a result, they may view 
themselves as customers and expect value for their money (Moodie, 2010). The 
use of marketing terminologies is not always popular with certain staff members, 
who may not see themselves as “service providers,” as this means students may 
be perceived as the customer, which can inadvertently imply a view that 
“customers are always right.” Small (2008) found, however, that staff members 
see their roles more along the lines of pastoral care rather than as the series of 
“transactions” that using marketing terminologies would suggest. 

In the university conceptualised as being a market economy, there is more 
than one group of “customers.” That is, customers are not only students but also 
other stakeholders such as academics (Conway, Mackay & Yorke, 1994). 
Further, Ramachandran (2010) argues that even if a marketing metaphor is used 
to describe the higher education sector, “higher education’ products are different 
from ‘commercial products’ and students are different from ‘customers’ who buy 
commercial products” (p. 544). Nevertheless, there are numerous marketing 
strategies employed at the university level as well as globally to entice students 
to specific institutions and host countries. These include ranking systems for 
universities, for example the ranking system developed by the Shanghai Jiao 
Tong University that evaluates universities worldwide based on their research 
output, as well as the use of surveys such as the international student barometer 
and Unit and Teaching Evaluation Instruments (Australian Education 
International, 2010) to provide insight into student’s expectations and 
experiences at universities (Lynch, 2006; Marginson, 2007). Meek (2000) 


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suggests such measures and performance benchmarking are “intended to 
increase competition and ensure value-for-money and efficiency gains” (p. 25). 

Evaluating Student Services in a Market Economy 

SERVQUAL surveys have been adapted by a number of researchers 
(Arambewela & Hall, 2009; Oldfield & Baron, 2000; O’Neill & Palmer, 2004; Tan 
& Kek, 2004) to understand students’ evaluation of service quality at universities. 
Surveys such as these can increase universities’ awareness of what students 
perceive as necessary services as well as help universities to gauge how 
satisfied their students are. Conversely, it has been argued that because 
services are different from goods in that the former is not tangible, perishable, or 
separable from production and consumption, it is difficult for standardised 
surveys to properly conceptualise and therefore properly evaluate university 
services (Hill, 1995). 

University services often involve human interaction and can be labour- 
intensive and as such are generally heterogeneous “as each service act is 
unique” (Hill, 1995, p. 12). This can lead to a lack of standardisation and 
considerable quality variation from “one situation to the next within the same 
organization” (p. 12). Further, Hill (1995) adds that “service productivity and 
quality depend not only on the performance of the service provider’s personnel, 
but also on the performance of the consumer, which again can make quality 
management problematic” (p. 13). For example, if a student fails a unit or dislikes 
a staff member, the impact on the student’s evaluations of a service may have 
little or nothing to do with the quality of that service or its provision. The 
consumer, it has been argued, relies on cognitive scripts of their expectations of 
the services, as well as on their previous experience with similar services, to 
evaluate subsequent services. For many international students, word of mouth is 
an important predictor of whether or not prospective students will choose 
particular universities and host countries. Therefore, when evaluations are based 
on expectations and past experiences, it might impact on this channel of 
advertising. Nevertheless, the climate prevails in which education institutions are 
engaged in competitive battle for student numbers (Sines & Duckworth, 1994), 
and this means that universities are required to operate in a quasi-market 
fashion, where student/customer satisfaction is paramount and these customers 
have more say into decision making. In this climate, universities are adopting 
business models and now perceive themselves to some extent as providing 
services (Scott, 1999). Therefore, as customers of higher education, full-fee- 
paying students, including international students, have a growing expectation that 
they be provided with access to services which are culturally appropriate and 
specifically designed to cater for their unique needs. 


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Limitations of Previous Research 

The current body of research into university international student services 
provision has a number of limitations. Studies have tended either to focus on the 
broad generic services provided by universities (Dhiilon, McGowan, & Wang, 
2008; Franke & Arvidsson, 2010), or on specialised services provided only for 
international students (McKinlay, Pattison & Gross, 1996; Ramsey, Jones & 
Barker, 2007; Seow, 2006). Mostly, these studies have been small scale or did 
not explain in depth the complexities of issues. Looking at both the generic and 
specialised services provided by one institution, this study provides a more 
holistic view of how the model of service provision affects the staff and students 
who provide and utilise services at university. In addition, there has been limited 
research focusing on staff perspectives of service provision, which has made it 
difficult to evaluate, from a service provision perspective, the pros and cons of 
available models of service provision. 

Taking into account the limitations discussed, the current study aimed to 
understand the challenges of service provision and utilisation from a more holistic 
point of view, using semi-structured interviews that took into account the 
perspectives of all three cohorts involved, namely staff members, domestic 
students, and international students. 

The Study 

Understanding realities from the different perspectives of individuals is the 
essence of social constructivism, which sees each individual’s experiential story 
as true and valid at one iteration because it has been experienced and is a 
perception of that experience (Manis & Meltzer, 1972). Thus Social 
constructivism formed the basis for this study that was designed to allow the 
researchers to develop a rich picture of the complex interactions involved and 
allow for development of better-tailored services for all parties within the case 
university. This paper focuses on one of the themes that emerged from the whole 
study: i.e., the experiences of staff members when working with international 
students within a mainstream model of service provision. 

Methodology 

The study adopted a social constructivist (Charmaz, 2000) theoretical 
framework to explore the challenges of accessing and providing international 
student services at one “case” university. The university was conceptualised as a 
“case” since literature argues that each institution has its own specific 
characteristics, budget, and student population and therefore is best studied 
separately (David & Renea, 2008). This approach firstly allowed the researchers 
to develop a critical understanding of the intricacies of the single case, including 
the student/staff and the staff/institution relationships (Calder, 2004). Secondly, 


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since service provision and utilisation are complex issues, multiple realities of the 
different stakeholders involved were explored more deeply. 

Social constructivism argues that reality is subjective to the person 
experiencing it and so social constructivism was able to frame the anticipated 
complexity of the research design. Data collection and analysis strategies 
associated with “constructivist grounded theory” (CGT) helped to conceptualise 
and triangulate responses from the different cohorts being interviewed and 
allowed for theoretical sampling, which permitted the researchers to follow up 
new directions in subsequent interviews as themes emerged during data analysis 
(Charmaz, 2000, 2006). 

One such theme that emerged within the current case provided a unique 
investigative setting for the researchers and is presented in this article. Just prior 
to the interviews, the Case University (CU) had changed its university-wide 
model of student service provision from specialised heterogeneous services to 
mainstreamed homogenous services. This provided an opportunity to investigate 
the challenges associated with providing and accessing services under a 
mainstream model of service provision from the perspective of the changes being 
experienced by all interviewed cohorts. 

Data Collection 

A total of 73 participants were interviewed from three different cohorts, 
namely staff, domestic students, and international students. Data saturation 
(Fossey, Harvey, McDermott, & Davidson, 2002; Morse, 1995) was reached at 
different points for the different cohorts, as well as for the questions contained in 
the semi-structured interviews. For staff members, saturation was reached at 38, 
made up of 28 females and 10 males who were a mix of academic and non¬ 
academic/support staff (see Figure 1). Saturation for international students was 
reached at 25 since the interview questions were more specific in nature than for 
staff, with the most specific interview—that of domestic students—reaching 
saturation at 10 participants. 

Figure 1: Demographic Information: University Staff & International Students 




Figure la: Mix of academic vs. 
non-academic staff interviewed 


KEY: 

BF = Business Faculty * 
EF * Education Faculty * 
SF » Science Faculty * 

* generic faculty names 


Figure lb: International students 
(n=25) according to enrolled 


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Three evolving interview schedules developed, one for each cohort of 
participants. The questions evolved slightly as the process of theoretical samplin 
facilitated new directions in enquiry (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Notes were taken 
during the interviews, which were compiled into a reflective journal (Glesne, 
1999). This journal also included the primary interviewer’s thought processes 
during and after data analysis. Data were manually analysed and stored using 
NVivo8 software. Participants were recruited using invitational emails, flyers and 
website posts, followed by snowball techniques. Interviews ranged from 30 to 60 
minutes long, and data were transcribed after each interview. 

Data Analysis 

Data were analysed using techniques associated with CGT (Charmaz, 
2000 & 2006). The process is illustrated in Figure 2. Transcribing was done 
immediately after each interview so that a constant comparison (Strauss & 
Corbin, 1990; Charmaz, 2000; Moghaddam, 2006) of previously data collected 
could be carried out before and then during the process of further interviewing. 
The notes taken during each interview were reviewed before the next interview to 
gain a broad sense of what the interview was about. Although there was a set of 
(semi-structured) questions, most participants had individual overriding issues 
that were returned to throughout their interview. 


Figure 2: Phases of Grounded Theory (Moghaddam, 2006) 


Data-collection 


Note-taking 


Coding 

1 

1 Memoing 



Sorting 




Writing 


Results and Findings 

CU moved from offering specific services for international students to a 
more generic, centralised model of service provision around 2007, some 18 
months prior to the interview period of this research. The reason given for this 
change in service provision depended on which participants were being 
interviewed. One support staff member suggested it was possible that CU was 
simply following other universities also changing to a generic model of service 
provision. Another staff member, who was a member of the university’s senior 
management, suggested the change came about after the leadership was 
changed at the university. This leadership change wanted to reflect the One 
University: Students First initiative, which meant that all students accessed the 
same services. According to the staff member, the change was meant to avoid 
“segregating” international students by offering them separate services from 
those provided to domestic students. Following this argument, offering generic 
services would, therefore, bring domestic and international students together. 


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The interviews reveal, however, that both cohorts of students reported 
experiencing a lack of intercultural interactions, and so it would appear that the 
centralised, generic model was not achieving that aim. 

There’s a philosophical debate...There’s one side that believes the best 
way to serve international students is to have them fully integrated with 
the Australian students, and there’s another side...that says, international 
students have got different needs from the Australian students, and 
therefore we need to have specialised services only for the international. 
Now three years ago and beyond we were on this [specialised] side of the 
spectrum where we had international student support as part of CU 
International and they had award winning services and programs for 
international students. However, while that was in place, there was a 
grave concern that the international students were not integrating with the 
Australian students, so when we had a change of leadership within the 
university the new leaders went to the other side, to say...you shouldn’t 
segregate international students, they are all students. So we basically 
transitioned from that model to the model that we are currently operating 
under where all students report to the one place irrespective of where 
they come from, and hopefully that service centre is adequately meeting 
the needs of international students. I think that the student services 
centre, once they started actually dealing with international students, 
started to realise how different they were from the Australian students and 
they are trying to get to the level of support that international students 
need, however they are reinventing the wheel that already existed, 
because they didn’t take anything from the previous model. 

International and Domestic Students Have Different Needs 

Under the revised model, the first point of reference for all students who 
require help or information is the student information unit where they queue up 
and take a number to see a student advisor. If the student advisors cannot help, 
students are asked to make an appointment with “connect officers,” which can 
take more time: 

The way SSC (student services centre) is set up is everybody comes 
through the front. It’s [like an] imaginary front counter and the enquiries 
are floated down through there...if somebody just has a quick question 
that kind of thing that’s fine, but for specialised queries? You wonder if 
they’re equipped to deal with international students. So crazy. 

In the interviews, staff members argued that the centralised system does 
not work as well for international students who are shy or who lack confidence in 
their conversational English skills. A staff member noted that international 
students need privacy to discuss some of their issues, and the student 
information unit is an open space where other students can overhear the 
international students. Further, some staff members argued that staff in the 
student information unit were often very busy with multiple queries and did not 


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have the time to sit, listen, and try to understand what an international student 
needs. A noted change was that before the change in model provision, 
international students had access to a one-stop-shop and contact with staff 
members who were well-versed with the needs of these students; now they had 
to access the same services that the domestic students access. 

Changes to service policy within the university furthered the debate along 
equity lines, as the move to generic service provision had not been seen as a 
good initiative by certain staff. In particular, staff felt their opinions were not taken 
into account by the university when considering how to implement new policy: 

We had a team of international student support, and that team, over many 
years, [had] come up with the services they were providing, and there 
was method in what they did and there were reasons why they did what 
they did. When we transferred away from international student support 
being part of CU International to the student services centre, I’m not 
aware of any knowledge or systems or processes or services that were 
transferred from us to the student centre services. 

Further, the move from specialised to generic services for all students was 
seen as “ignorant” by staff members who argued that international students 
required specialised help: 

I think CU made a mistake getting rid of the international student advisers. 
That was a department that specialised in that area; they knew what they 
were talking about. We used to deal with them a lot and they used to 
advocate for students at appeals and that sort of thing...I just don't 
understand where CU are coming from by saying everyone has the same 
problems. It's just ignorant to say that. I mean obviously international 
students have so many more issues to contend with. You know 
homesickness, culture shock...shame and the whole thing of not knowing 
where to go for help and being isolated and just so many different issues 
that domestic students are never going to face. 

This view was expressed by academic staff members as well as non¬ 
academic/support staff: 

A lot of the support services have been centralised so we are losing our 
student support officer and I know that a plan by the university to optimise 
its resources and streamline them but I don’t know that that’s appropriate, 
particularly in a school that has so many international students. 

While arguing their point that international students have different needs 
compared to domestic students, one staff member suggested that since the 
university has enrolled them, there should be a duty of care to make sure 
international students are taken care of, through better emotional support: 

They need often an awful lot of support. International students face 
separation from their families, their support networks, everything that they 
need to get along in life basically. They come to a country...they don’t 
know anyone, they don’t know how the country works, or what the culture 


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is like...that would make you feel very isolated and alone and there needs 
to be more social and emotional support. Now that may not be the 
university’s job, but the university takes their money, there should be a 
duty of care somewhere, as far as I’m concerned. 

For the staff members who had worked under the old model, there was 
general agreement that it worked better both for the staff members and 
international students. In that model, the international office catered not only for 
admissions, but also offered services such as international student officers 
(ISOs) who were always on campus and had private offices for international 
students to discuss their issues and who also had time to work with these 
students through any issues. Some ISOs were multilingual, which helped 
international students who lacked confidence in their English skills. They were 
also well versed with the immigration and VISA requirements for students and 
held a number of social activities, through the international student groups (e.g., 
Kenyan students group and Chinese students association). As staff members 
pointed out, this department was specialised in that they had experience in 
dealing with international student issues. They advocated for and understood the 
needs that international students have. It was expressed that, at present, these 
students’ needs were no longer being met, as there were no programs or 
services being offered to take into account all the academic and socio-cultural 
difficulties international students can experience. 

Lack of Specialised Staff 

Staff members argued that with the move to a centralised, generic model 
and the resultant changes that were happening at the university, there was now a 
lack of staff members trained to work with international students. Some staff were 
explicit and animated when suggesting that the university had to realise that with 
the growing number of international students, there needed to be more staff 
members being employed to work specifically with these students. As an 
emergent theme in the data, lack of support staff posed the biggest challenge in 
international student service provision: 

It’s very hard for us to meet the needs of all our students, both 
international and local with that number of staff. We’re trying to address it 
through a series of workshops but my feeling too is that there’s a great 
need for individual consultation [with international students] and it’s hard 
to accommodate the needs of all those students with so few of us. 

Academic staff members expressed that the ratio of learning advisors to 
the number of enrolled international students was too low and that the university 
executives were out of touch with the pressures they faced in teaching these 
students: 

There has to be much better support systems...three or four learning 
advisers for the whole university, is just ludicrous...and I think that the 
problem with CU is that [the executives] don't understand the 


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requirements for international students because they never taught really 
themselves. 

Academic staff argued that the decreasing amount of support from non- 
academic staff members meant it was falling back to the academic staff 
members to provide psychosocial and non-academic support for international 
students. One academic staff member was especially articulate about the 
process and generally claimed that having support staff members ensured that 
international students did not fall through the cracks and helped these students 
integrate better into the university system and feel part of the university culture. 

We still have our student support officer at the moment but if we lose her 
and there isn’t anyone down there [at student central] the students’ first 
port of call will be us, which will mean that we will be inundated with 
students...centralisation of university services doesn’t help to build a 
feeling of belonging to the university and each school tries very hard, I 
know ours does, to make a student feel part of the school, part of a 
student community and a student body so that they do have some sort of 
belonging which is really important for international students because they 
are out of their comfort zone and away from home. So we work really 
hard to do that but it’s very difficult if you’ve lost your student support as 
well. 

This view was supported by other academic staff members who 
suggested that the university executives did not have much contact with 
international students and so were out of touch with the challenges that front-line 
staff face when working with this cohort. The change in service provision, 
according to these staff, might only work for those high-level management staff 
that focus on the university’s financial bottom line rather than the daily challenges 
that academic staff face providing support to international students. 

Miscommunication among Staff Members 

Staff members reported that they felt frustrated because the service 
provision changes were causing miscommunication among staff at faculty and 
school levels: 

I think at the moment there’s a lot of an inconsistency between different 
schools, different faculties, different advisers or whatever. 

This led to misunderstandings between staff members and confusion over 
who was to handle specific issues or problems. From an International student 
support perspective, students were being sent to and from multiple interfaces 
with support services because staff were confused about which services were 
still being offered, which had in fact ceased, or where some services had moved. 

The disconnect between centralised support and the “on-the-ground” 
knowledge of staff and needs of students was highlighted in one international 
student’s narrative around having to return home at short notice. In her effort to 
learn her options regarding suspension/withdrawal of enrolment, university fees 


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and student VISA implications, she was sent repeatedly between two different 
campuses of the university. 

I was thinking about withdrawing from my course, and this was an option 
at this time. And [student central] said “are you an international student”, 
“yes I am”, so “no you have to talk to international student services 
information centre 1 .” I called there and they said “no there's no one here 
that can answer your questions.” We drove to [campus S2 1 ], got there, a 
guy picked up the [internal] phone... and I said “I came here from [campus 
#1] to see you,” and explained] all the things. On the phone he said “no, 
that’s not me, you should go to international student services”. I said “I 
just went there, they said that it’s with you, can you see me?” “No, I can't 
see you. In 10 minutes I'm going home, and that's international services.” 
So I went back. I got there, explained the whole situation again and they 
said “no there’s another sector that’s going to answer your questions.” So 
I was feeling like ping-pong between all those people.” 

The international student re-telling this story then ended her account with 
a telling remark: “The service that they should provide that was international 
service, the guy was just rude and awful.” Such an unconstructive staff response 
to deal with a student’s issue is consistent with the staff views being expressed 
regarding their frustration at the loss of specialist knowledge (that comes with 
specialised services) in the new service provision model. 

Lack of Specialised Services 

The above views were echoed in multiple international students’ stories 
regarding not knowing where to go to access services, and a lack of services 
meeting their needs at the university: 

I am so busy with my research. It could have been better that I not have to 
worry about wasting time chasing people to extend my visa...they sent 
me everywhere. First I went to the faculty office and they told me...it’s the 
responsibility of international office. I went there and they told me...to go 
to the student central. I was a bit annoyed because it was difficult to find 
someone specific to go to. 

International students also indicated there was a lack of services that 
promoted cultural interaction or services that took into account the fact that some 
students may be dealing with isolation or loneliness, or pragmatic issues such as 
dietary restrictions: 

No cultural events, no chances for people...I mean you have a lot of 
international students [here]; you can have some sort of maybe an 
international students day or something, where international students can 
come in their cultural costumes. 

Some of the students, they're having a problem with food because they're 
Muslims. They're eating Hallal, especially when it's related with 


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meat...when you‘re putting pork or ham in a sandwich, please make it 
very obvious because we don't eat pork and ham. 

International students’ comments regarding lack of specific services 
extended to perceptions of their academic and industry development. It was 
reported that they were not attaining study-related work experiences, and when 
they have tried to apply for jobs that were related to their studies, they had not 
been successful. 

These students explained their feeling that it was the university’s 
responsibility to line up possible work placements when such placements were 
required as part of their study, since the international students themselves would 
not be aware of how to go about seeking these types of jobs or employers might 
not be willing to use the service of international students without endorsement 
from institutions: 

When I came here I found out that to graduate [with] my degree I have to 
do 12 weeks work experience. That’s [an] issue because nobody’s 
interested to hire international students...[my lecturers] said you can do 
this work experience in your own country as a solution, but I’m here in 
Australia to learn. I could do the whole degree in my country. Why am I 
here? There’s no benefit. I’m here to learn. 

Conclusion and Implications 

One of the issues that began to emerge during the current study was 
associated with organization-wide changes in approaches to service provision. In 
the context of this change, staff and students alike expressed a growing 
dissatisfaction that not only was it already challenging to provide or utilize good 
support services, but that the loss of previous service pathways and, in particular, 
more specialised modes of interaction between staff and international students 
served to make the current situation even more frustrating. In the context of this 
growing disquiet, a theme that began to emerge from the staff was general 
dissatisfaction with a model that, in their opinion, did not benefit either staff or 
students. 

Staff reported experiencing frustration with the mainstream model which 
was adding to their already heavy workload, characterised by lack of time and 
resources, and frequent miscommunication between staff members within and 
between faculties as well as between staff members and management (policy 
makers). If the aim of the move to the centralized model was towards efficiency, 
it would seem that from the accounts of some staff this aim had not been 
achieved as staff were confused as to which services were still in effect and 
where students in need should be sent. Further, the mainstream model of service 
provision was alienating some international students, who required more specific 
services to cater for their unique needs. 

Two important implications arose from the above findings. Firstly, the 
accumulation of negative experiences reported by staff could lead to an 


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increasing likelihood that these staff members will view international students in a 
negative manner or through a “deficit” lens, which then impacts on how they treat 
and work with these students. 

Secondly, and related to the first implication, is that one outcome of not 
meeting the needs of international students and having some staff treat some 
international students using a deficit lens could be increased student attrition. 
Although the retention rate for CU in 2010 (the year prior to data collection) was 
0.4% above their target and had increased slightly over the 2009 figure, it was 
below the national average of 84%. This rate did not distinguish between 
international or domestic attrition; nevertheless, an attrition rate of more than 
16% could have serious implications for CU, especially if it increases. There 
were, in fact, anecdotal reports from both interviewed staff and students of 
international students leaving CU and in some cases transferring to neighboring 
universities because of their negative experiences. 

Ultimately, the positive benefits of intercultural interaction between staff 
and international students and between domestic and international students 
reported in literature will fail to occur if international student needs are not being 
met and these students opt to study elsewhere (Kell & Vogl, 2008; Mahat & 
Hourigan, 2007; Sam, 2001). 


Notes 


1. Both campuses form part of CU. 

2. The “international student services information centre” is the only remaining 
remnant of the Case University International and is responsible (only) for 
enrolment of international students. 

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