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Sojourner Adjustment among Chinese Students in UK Universities

Boyle, Martin Sojourner Adjustment among Chinese Students in UK Universities. In: Focus on the East Asian Learner, 11/7/08 - 13/7/08, Portsmouth. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:8359)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


Research (Jin & Cortazzi, 2006, Cortazzi & Jin, 1996, Watkins & Biggs, 1996) into ‘The Chinese Learner’ has traditionally focused on socio-cultural differences between learning environments and approaches to education in the UK and China, and the suggestion seems to be that Chinese students ‘as a group’ have difficulty making the leap from a ‘Confucian’ educational culture which focuses on notions of ‘hard work,’ rote memorisation and regurgitation of facts to a ‘classical humanist’ one which focuses on critical thinking and individual ideas. Although more recent research (Pilcher et al, 2006) suggests that there is in fact an ‘immense variability’ in the linguistic and academic skills that Chinese students in the UK have, there is an ongoing perception among academics and EAP specialists in UK universities – and among the students themselves - that Chinese students ‘on the whole’ have distinct problems acquiring the necessary linguistic skills to be able to integrate into and cope with the demands of UK university life.

Speculation on the reasons for this can be found in Rossiter’s (2001) BALEAP PIM report on The Chinese Learner. There is a perception among EAP lecturers in the UK that Chinese students fail to acquire language for a number of reasons ranging from the gap between their L1 and English to conflict between teaching and learning cultures, approaches and styles. Principally, though, concern has been raised that Chinese students ‘fail to integrate’ or ‘ghettoise’ when they come to UK universities (Rossiter, 2001). ‘Ghettoisation’ and ‘failure to integrate’ would seem to be sociological phenomena exhibited by many groups in many environments – not just Chinese students in UK universities. However, Spurling (2007), using Siu’s (1952) definition of the sojourner as a type of ‘marginal man,’ applies the description to Chinese-speaking students in UK universities, and argues that this it is for this reason that they tend to ghettoise and fail to integrate with other home and international students. Boyle & Yu (2007) address the issue in a practical guide aimed at Chinese students intending to study at university in the UK, but there seems to be little evidence of attempts by UK universities to systematically create an environment where Chinese students are positively coerced into integrating and socialising with home and other international students to a particular end.

This paper will take as its premise the argument that a large proportion of Chinese students do indeed conform to the notion of the sojourner in that they ghettoise and fail to integrate with home and other international students. Arguing that students who integrate and acculturate tend to a) acquire more idiomatic as well as academic English, b) understand and develop an affinity for the local culture, and c) feel more grounded and consequently perform better academically, it shows that increased structured social interaction with home and other international students creates a virtuous circle of socialisation, acculturation and language acquisition.

The research focuses on the University of Kent International Foundation Programme, where the student union has been enlisted in the process of integrating students into the social and cultural life of the institution. Students who do this programme are required to join a union club or society and to ‘take an active part’ in it; the extent to which they have taken an active part in the club or society is then tested through a written report and a formal presentation, both of which count towards their final grade. Using questionnaires, interviews, presentations, reports and visual ethnography, the research tracks a group of native-Chinese-speaking (Mandarin and Cantonese) students from the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong through their involvement in a SU club or Society.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: L Education
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Martin Boyle
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2011 14:41 UTC
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2021 13:04 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Boyle, Martin.

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