There has been much criticism in the media of late of the Australian Higher Education sector failing to provide the necessary support, and apply the appropriate classroom strategies, to ensure inclusion of their international students. A recent study by researchers from Monash University and the University of Melbourne reported that more than two-thirds of foreign students in Australia feel lonely and isolated (The Australian, "Foreign students isolated, friendless", 5 Feb).
As Chancellor of Bond University, Australia’s most international university, I can say with great confidence that this is not the case at Bond University, where around half of our students hail from over 70 different countries.
The Bond community is one of inclusion. It is one where both our staff and students go to great lengths to ensure the diversity of our student body is embraced and that students who arrive from abroad to study here are nurtured and supported to make the most of their Australian experience.
Our international student body is privy to a range of personalised services, including access to professional counsellors, dedicated International Student Support and Liaison Officers, an English Study Support Centre and Academic Advisors. Our Bond Mate ‘buddy’ system, which facilitates the teaming-up of a new student with an existing student, is also very popular with students studying abroad.
The diversity in religions and cultures is celebrated by our student body and there are more than 30 active social and cultural clubs in operation on campus, such as the Indian Students Association, Korean Students Association and Association of Norwegian Students Abroad; to the clubs which encourage cross-culture bonding such as the The Capoeira Martial Arts Club and Latin-America Salsa Club.
Being a smaller university (with a student population of around 3,700 students), we are a tight-knit community and our low staff-to-student ratio means tutorials often have less than a dozen students, allowing close friendships to be forged between fellow students and staff.
Feedback from our international students attests to their positive experience at Bond University. For example, Indonesian student Aryianti recently said coming to Bond gave her "the opportunity to meet students from Australia and around the world"; while Vietnamese student Dimitry says the thing he likes most at Bond is that "it is very friendly" and "everyone knows each other by their first name – even the professors". Our five-star rating for overall student satisfaction (2008 Good Universities Guide) also speaks to the positive educational experience Bond students enjoy.
I firmly believe, and this has been demonstrated at Bond University, that cultural diversity on campus, appropriately integrated, brings benefits to Australian and international graduates alike. These benefits include an increased understanding and appreciation of various cultures, which enhances graduates in terms of relationships on a global basis and, in numerous instances, leads to the development of friendships that transcend various cultures.
Along with the researchers, I encourage more Australian universities to provide the necessary support, and apply the appropriate classroom strategies, to ensure inclusion of their international students. This is of most importance to our country as a major exporter of educational services.
Mr Trevor C Rowe AM