international students

New publication: Who are Tajikistan’s international students?

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HERB_12_cover.jpg.(200x-x123)Who leaves Tajikistan to study abroad, and why?

Where do these students go, and what do they study?

What are their post-study destinations?

These are some of the questions I address in my new essay on Tajikistan’s international students, out today in Higher Education in Russia & Beyond (HERB).

You can find out more about the survey on which this essay is based in earlier blog posts (in five parts): part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

As I conclude, studying abroad can be a profoundly transformational experience. Many of the people that participated in the research I am reporting on said they had changed greatly as a result of their experiences.

This feeling is neatly encapsulated by the words of one respondent:

“I am so much [a] different person now than I was back then. Education here has broadened my mind to the things that I had no idea of their existence and as I grow in possessing my knowledge I see the opportunities that I can get, and the things that I can do in my life and with my life. I am [a] much happier person now than I was before.”

This issue of HERB looks holistically at international students across the former Soviet space, and I encourage you to take a look at the other essays in this collection.

Higher Education in Russia & Beyond 2(12) – link to whole issue

Kyrgyz students 2015 – who, what, where

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This is a wonderful infographic from Sputnik, a Russia media agency that set up shop in Kyrgyzstan last year. Produced recently for International Day of Students, the original article is here.

For me, the most interesting stories are:

  1. The mismatch between the funding that the state is making available to students, and the courses they want to study
  2. The continuing popularity of computing-related and social sciences subjects
  3. The huge growth in the number of international students from India and Kazakhstan, and the parallel crash in the Uzbek student body

For non-Russian readers, a translation is below.

Kyrgyz student infographic 2015 sputnik.kg.png

Emma’s English translation…

Title: Student-2015

Which courses did students choose this year, what do the brightest want to be come and which professions does the state need?

Image 1 (light background)

Left: courses for which the government provided the most scholarship places – physics/maths, philology (a combination of literary criticism, history and linguistics), medicine

Right: most popular courses (by enrolment statistics) – economics, law, medicine

38,275 students enrolled in 2015, compared to 38,259 in 2014.

Image 2 (dark blue background)

4,868 students received state funding in 2015; 3,415 students received state funding on the basis of their results in the nationwide admissions exams (ORT in Russian acronym) in 2015. The median score in the ORT was 150,8 to get a state scholarship.

33,407 students are self-funding in 2015. Their median ORT score was 133,2.

Which courses were most popular amongst those scoring highest on the ORT?

  Average score Highest score
State funded places
Software engineering 201,8 229
IT 190,3 214
Medicine and related 185 230
Self-funded places
Software and programming 202,4 234
International and comparative politics 170 197
International and business law 168,8 223

How many state funded places were offered in 2015?

5,441 divided between 24 universities. The highest number of places (615) went to the Kyrgyz State Technical University; the lowest (62) to the Kyrgyz Republic National Academy of Arts. The average tuition fee is 33,000 som (USD$430) compared to 30,000 last year.

Number of foreign students studying in Kyrgyzstan in 2014/15

The yellow to green indicator at the top is for countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States; the pink to red indicator at the bottom is for other countries. The graphs below show an increase from around 3,000 to 4,800 from Kazakhstan during the period 2009/10 to 2014/15 and a huge drop – from 6,000 to 600 from Uzbekistan. The biggest increase from outside the former Soviet region is from India, where student numbers have grown from around 500 to nearly 2,500.

International students, international communities

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I recently started a new job as Registrar at St Antony’s College, which is part of the University of Oxford. Each student at the University is a member of a College, and the College provides residential, pastoral and social facilities as well as providing teaching (for undergraduate students) and a base for researchers, seminars, conferences and so on. Many Colleges accept both undergraduate and postgraduate students whilst mine is one of seven postgrad-only Colleges. We specialise in international relations, politics, economics and history of particular parts of the world. St Antony’s is unique in that we host seven centres, each focussing on a different part of the world. Our student community is very international – around 85% of our students are from outside the UK. We also have a high number of visiting researchers, who come to work with our fellows as well as use the College’s fantastic library and academic/social resources.

One of the (many) things I like about St Antony’s is its cosmopolitan nature. Just yesterday I met with one of our former students from Chile, who is now head of the Chilean athletics team! Today I’ve been in touch with people in Norway, Pakistan as well as down the road in London, to name just a few places. Come the autumn term, there will be regular seminars on aspects of life and society around the world.

The international character of the College can be hugely beneficial for our student community, but it also leads me to thinking about how we integrate our students and what steps we can take to help them settle into life in the UK. Students who are new to the UK (and let’s not talk about the particular quirks of Oxford’s way of doing some things!) can have queries that range from big (help me with my student visa) to mundane (where can I buy bed sheets). What can my office – as well as the other student support services in College – do to make the path as smooth as we can for our students? And once we’ve done that, what we can we do to enhance their experience of being in Oxford, but without impinging on their main priority, which is to study?

Elisabeth Gareis has an interesting article in University World News this week looking at an aspect of the second question. She has investigated friendships between international students and host nationals, pointing out the positive effects such friendships can have: improved language skills, greater levels of well-being, enriched perspectives in the classroom and so on. However, the reality is that these kinds of friendships don’t exist as much as they should/could, and Gareis offers some good suggestions for institutions to help facilitate this.

She is absolutely right, though, to point out that ‘accountability also lies with the students themselves’. It’s hard work being an international student (I’ve been one myself and can testify to this!): continually putting in more effort than if you were studying in your home country and often dealing with cultural adjustments as well as changes to your study environment. But ultimately the experience you will have abroad will be much richer and more positive if you can make that extra effort to integrate yourself.

Nevertheless, the burden should not fall entirely on the international student. Host national students also need to try much harder to get on with their international colleagues. A Tajik friend of mine recently returned from studying in the US and said she didn’t make any American friends, and that is not for want of trying. At a recent Society for Research into Higher Education seminar, Paulo Pimentel Bótas of the University of Bath pointed out that UK students are often less well prepared to critically reflect on their own work than Chinese students brought up with the Confucian style of self-criticism before criticism of others. As such, host nationals can learn as much from nationals of other countries as international students themselves can learn – but the major challenge is to enthuse and engage home students to do that.

If you have examples of steps you have taken to integrate yourself as an international student, or things you have done as a home student to help international students, I’d love to hear about them.