Staying the course: The importance of social and structural networks for NESB students achieving positive outcomes at a regional campus

This paper is set within the context of an Australian regional university. The study investigates the experiences of students with non-English-speaking backgrounds (NESB), focusing on problems encountered at university. There remains an assumption among some academic and support staff that NESB students have one main problem that sets them apart from native speakers: their standard of English. There is a general lack of understanding of the effects of culture, separation from family and feelings of isolation on the physical and emotional adjustment of this cohort and on their success at university (Bartlett & Chanock, 2003).

This study identifies challenges experienced by students: linguistic, financial, cultural, academic, social and technological. There is a perception that NESB students are a homogeneous group. However, in our sample there were significant differences within the NESB respondents as recognised by Wang and Le (2006). The data highlight potential strategies for overcoming the barriers students face. Major’s (2005) concept of three dimensions of adjustment assists in identifying appropriate times for intervention with both social and structural support to enhance student success. The findings and recommendations point to the conclusion that social and structural scaffolding for NESB students should be embedded in curricula where appropriate and systematically included in university processes starting before the university experience, continuing through it, and extending from it.

Publication Source Information
Fildes, Laura
Cunnington, Clare
Quaglio, Marita
Year of publication: 
Title of Journal, Edited book or Conference and Page numbers: 
Journal of Academic Language and Learning, Vol. 4, No. 1; pp. A24-A40
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