An Exploration of the Relationship Between Organizational Factors and the Learning Experiences of International Graduate Students
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Many higher education institutions in Canada are enrolling international graduate students as part of their internationalization strategy. However, once international graduate students arrive at their host institution, they often experience tensions in the classroom. There is a lack of critical examination concerning how these students are treated once they are admitted (Lee, 2007b). Much of the existing research frames international students as having to acclimate to their institution rather than examining the institutional structures in place to support these students. There is a paucity of studies that explores the relationship between international graduate students, university administrators, and policymakers in the context of internationalization. This qualitative study sought to extend the research on internationalization and the academic experiences of international students in Canada by examining: (1) The classroom experiences of international graduate students at a higher education institution in relation to internationalization; (2) University administrators’ understandings of international graduate students’ classroom experiences in relation to internationalization; (3) Existing university policies and initiatives that address the classroom experiences of international graduate students in relation to internationalization; and (4) The relationship between university policies, administrators’ understandings of international graduate students’ classroom experiences, and international graduate students’ actual experiences in relation to internationalization. This study used a grounded theory approach. An expanded critical race theory lens was used to illuminate students’ experiences. Overall, a disjunction was found between the policies and reports, university administrators’ understanding of international graduate students’ experiences in the classroom and international graduate students’ actual experiences. Four key findings emerged from the interview data and document analysis, which were reflected across the data sets: (1) Lack of inclusive practices within the classroom environment; (2) Absence of international perspectives and content within the curriculum and pedagogy; (3) Language and accent discrimination; and (4) Lack of initiatives to create a welcoming and inclusive campus climate. This study will add to the literature on international graduate students and extend existing theories on this population. It will also expand future research on organizational factors that influence international graduate students’ academic experiences.