The perceptions of postgraduate international students of examinations

Cruickshank, P. (2016). The perceptions of postgraduate international students of examinations. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, In press, (), .



The increasing internationalisation of higher education means that many students in the UK are not native English speakers, possibly putting them at a disadvantage in an examination environment. However, exams continue to be used even though although they are often deprecated as an assessment instrument in postgraduate courses. This article explores the implications from these observations for module leaders and for higher education institutions. Three themes emerge: the impact of internationalisation, the use of exams at postgraduate level and the language and cultural issues faced by international students. A review of university policy and quality documents revealed a general commitment to internationalisation but some gaps in policy support, for students with English as a second or foreign language. A survey of students in two computing programmes evaluated these themes. The results did not show up any major issues, though there were a number of suggestions to improve the exam process to address feelings of bias to UK or native-English-speaking students. The research therefore established that the university’s internationalisation and diversity strategy is broadly reflected in students’ experiences, with the possible exception of students who were recruited with insufficient English to be able to engage successfully with the material. The contrast in responses when analysed by home country or English proficiency suggest that Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) practice in this context should be clear whether and when language or culture are the main barrier to students. Pragmatic recommendations are made for improvement in examination practice, and to assessment processes generally in this context. Areas for further work are identified.
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Peter Cruickshank
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