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International Staff in UK Business Schools: Difficulties and Student Perception. BMAF Teaching Research and Development Grants 2010/11. Magda Abou-Seada & Michael Sherer. Presentation Outline. Introduction Aims Data collection Findings Recommendations. Introduction.

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international staff in uk business schools difficulties and student perception

International Staff in UK Business Schools: Difficulties and Student Perception

BMAF Teaching Research and Development Grants 2010/11

Magda Abou-Seada


Michael Sherer

presentation outline
Presentation Outline



Data collection




The number of international staff increased from 8.6% in 1996/97 to 21.8% in 2007/08 (HESA, 2009)

The “move from elite to mass higher education in countries such as the UK, USA and Canada has especially contributed to this growth” (Richardson, 2009, p. S162)

Kim (2009) argues that the increased recruitment of international academics in the UK is driven mainly by improving research rankings

aims of study
Aims of Study

To identify the difficulties faced by international staff teaching in UK business schools and how such difficulties are dealt with by HE institutions

To investigate students’ perceptions of international staff

data collection
Data Collection

Data is collected via staff interviews and student focus groups at six UK business schools

The business schools are chosen to reflect research intensity (pre and post 1992 universities) and regional variations

The sample selected includes:

International staff with varying experiences, backgrounds and mother tongues

under- and post-graduate students with varying backgrounds and mother tongues

findings staff views
Findings – Staff Views

Induction and preparation for teaching

“Apart from the general induction to the university I didn’t receive any proper preparation for teaching”

“I was asked to be module leader and they gave me some materials from the previous year but that was it. I was left to figure out everything”

“They asked my to do the PGCert which didn’t help much”

findings staff views1
Findings – Staff Views

Difficulties faced during teaching

Most staff interviewed indicated that they faced communication problems at the start of their careers in the UK

Some had problems in understanding international students

The lack of confidence led staff to believe that it was their problem not students’ accents “I was too embarrassed to tell students that I had not understood them”

findings staff views2
Findings – Staff Views

Negative comments from students resulted in some lack of confidence “I felt that students were more focused on my language skills rather than my competence in explaining the subject”

Schools were more supportive of students and in some cases students were allowed to change classes in response to their complaints about a lecturer’s accent

When asked about their relationships with students coming from their home countries, there were mixed reactions

findings staff views3
Findings – Staff Views

Mentoring and peer review

The interviewees criticised the current mentoring and peer review systems and agreed that the presence of a supportive mentor would be of great help to international staff

Some indicated that they did not have any mentors when they started their jobs and some of those who had mentors did not even know who their mentors were

findings student views
Findings – Student Views

Some, especially overseas students, indicated that they did not expect to be taught by international staff

Most found it difficult to understand the accents of some international staff “even if their language was good, I came here to learn the British accent”

They noted that being lectured by staff of varying accents made learning more difficult for them “In the first year of my studies in the UK I had to cope with lots of things and the last thing I wanted was to try to understand the accent of my lecturers”

findings student views1
Findings – Student Views

Some, however, were supportive of being taught by international staff:

“being exposed to varying accents enhances our employability skills”

“lecturers coming from overseas understand our problems better, I think because some of them were once overseas students”

“native British lecturers speak too quickly and I don’t understand them”

“at least our overseas teachers respond to our emails”

findings student views2
Findings – Student Views

Research students had different views with regards to their supervision preferences

Some students preferred to be supervised by native British staff as this would be perceived in a better way by their home institutions

Other students indicated that being supervised by staff coming from their home countries facilitated communication, especially when the student’s spoken English was not at a high standard


The mentoring and peer review policies, especially for international staff, need to be reviewed

Schools/departments should be more supportive of international staff who receive negative feedback from students by designing relevant development courses to improve communication skills

Recruitment policies should not be driven by improving research rankings regardless of teaching skills

thank you if you d like a copy of the paper or to take part please contact me

Thank youIf you’d like a copy of the paper or to take part please contact me:

Magda Abou-Seada

Essex Business School