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Universities should ban country-specific student societies, professor says Watch

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    (Original post by Telegraph)
    Although such a step could be seen as “social engineering” it could build bridges between those coming from abroad to study and their British counterparts, said Paul White, pro-vice chancellor for learning an teaching at the University of Sheffield.



    While universities are generally good at helping students form friendships they also create “close communities of students who don’t interact with each other”, Professor White said.



    For example Chinese, Indian and British students all tend to stick with their national groups, he claimed.



    An international faculty of Sheffield University - City College, in Thessaloniki, Greece – has already banned national student societies, he told the Westminster Higher Education Conference.



    “They want their students from the Balkan region not to feel that they are Serbs of Kosovans or Macedonians,” he said.


    British institutions, he argued, should take it upon themselves to get communities to interact, even if the act strayed into the realms of “social engineering”.
    Simple steps could be taken such as not allowing students to pick their class groups and ensuring “mixed communities” when allocating housing, he told the conference on internationalism.


    Professor White added that it was an “interesting idea” that he was “throwing out there”, the Times Higher Education magazine reported.


    But he also questioned how many students actually wanted to broaden their cultural horizons and some foreign students only want the knowledge of the university and not the “true international experience”.


    Alex Bols, executive director of the 1994 Group, which brings together research intensive universities, suggested that the isolation may occur because international students arrive on campus a week earlier and form their first friendships with other foreign students.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education...ssor-says.html

    I understand what has prompted this professor's concern - anyone who has spent time on a uni campus will have noticed the segregation that occurs along national / ethnic / native language lines, and that segregation is not a good thing for anyone.

    Do I think that banning country-specific societies is the answer? No. What I do think would help is
    - requiring a better standard of English from prospective students - we've all come across internationals who can barely speak English, which inhibits their ability to make friends with people who don't speak their native language (and this in turn becomes a vicious circle, because by not speaking English their English doesn't improve).
    - ensure that all halls have a comparable number of UK, EU and International students. At my own uni, some halls are dominated by international students to the extent that it changes the culture of the whole hall and causes some UK students to move out to more 'sociable' halls.
    - hold orientation week during freshers week - usually nothing much happens in the daytime anyway, so orientation events could reasonably be held during the day
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    (Original post by Origami Bullets)
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education...ssor-says.html

    I understand what has prompted this professor's concern - anyone who has spent time on a uni campus will have noticed the segregation that occurs along national / ethnic / native language lines, and that segregation is not a good thing for anyone.

    Do I think that banning country-specific societies is the answer? No. What I do think would help is
    - requiring a better standard of English from prospective students - we've all come across internationals who can barely speak English, which inhibits their ability to make friends with people who don't speak their native language (and this in turn becomes a vicious circle, because by not speaking English their English doesn't improve).
    - ensure that all halls have a comparable number of UK, EU and International students. At my own uni, some halls are dominated by international students to the extent that it changes the culture of the whole hall and causes some UK students to move out to more 'sociable' halls.
    - hold orientation week during freshers week - usually nothing much happens in the daytime anyway, so orientation events could reasonably be held during the day
    I can see where he's coming from. If I was studying abroad and there was a "UK Society", I'm not sure what its purpose would be beyond socialising exclusively with people from the same country as me, but it would be interesting to hear from people who have been in these country-specific socities :beard:

    I like your first suggestion in particular :yes: Social aspect aside, it can't be easy to study a course in English if your own knowledge of the language is some way off being fluent.

    At my uni we have one hall that's basically "the internationals hall". I might be wrong but I don't think they even open it up to UK students. Not really ideal for trying to help people integrate.
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    Totally agree with you there OP............ they shouldn't be banned at all.
    Such societies offer so much, many participate in charity, volunteering, create loads of events which attract students to the university....... its socially good for the local community as they provide business and in some cases more with charity/volunteering work locally.

    Other thing is that many of them actually also broaden people's horizon when they go to university, others get to experience different cultures, food, etc.
    The other thing is that they are very comforting and easy way especially for internationals who struggle at first with living in Britain.

    It depends on the universities as well, the article is a huge generalisation into such societies..... many societies like that have people from all different backgrounds and are members, I know people of Oriental descendent as committee members of the Indian society, etc. Without having all these societies how else are people going to experience going to university and have this "international" experience he stated when all they'll be doing is learn from one culture and could backfire if some students feel alienated............ not to mention cultural norms of where some students are from, so events, etc are more to their liking and so they can attend.
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    I presume he wants to prevent nus funding of nationalist societies... Can't see how he'd prevent people socialising on their own dime.

    What's the age profile of internationals? A lot of the non english speakers look like they might be over 21, sponsored by an employer and therefore just less interested in getting involved in the native uk student culture.
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    About their understanding of English -can this apply to lecturers as well as students?
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    They shouldn't be banned. Moving abroad is a big thing and it's natural that students will be comforted by hanging out with people from their own country. At the end of the day banning such societies won't stop people from mixing with their own race. Besides, they're not just for the international students! I've made some great friends at Spanish soc, which I went to so I could find a language buddy and other non-Spanish people go too

    I can appreciate where he is coming from though. I mean, the Chinese people in our flat just don't talk to us at all even though we try to. Tbh, I've found that a lot of international students seem quite shy about approaching people from the UK. I agree with the person who said the orientation should be in freshers- I don't think it helped they all arrived a week before us and they'd already formed their friendship groups.

    I think more needs to be done to integrate international students

    My best friend at uni is Lithuanian and she feels very comfortable with UK people, but other than the people in our house she only really hangs out with other Lithuanians.

    On another note, meeting all the international students has been one of my favourite things about uni- I know people from all over the world who I never normally would have made friends with
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    From my own personal experience, it's not like these societies only attract or socialise with people from that specific country, but people interested in different cultures or languages etc as well. For example, the Japan society at my university recently had a joint event with the kendo, karate and anime clubs, and I believe they also have Japanese film screenings with the Film society, and so have brought together groups of people who would never necessarily interact all that much. I can't speak for the quality elsewhere, but I wouldn't consider these clubs 'part of the problem' of people sticking to interacting within their nationalities.
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    (Original post by That Bearded Man)
    About their understanding of English -can this apply to lecturers as well as students?
    Totally agree with this. I have lots of lecturers who are doctoral students in the Econ department - and loads of them... I can barely understand.


    In my experience, the national societies for French, German, and Spanish students are more mixed, as they also have the students OF those languages as well as students FROM those countries.

    I think something that needs to be in the guidance given to international students is that they need to be aware that they may come across views of their countries that they're not particularly keen on. My macroeconomics lecturer referred to the new Governor of the Bank of England as 'from the colonies' and the Canadian student in front of me was like 'I don't think they'd be very happy to be called that!' and it's just like... you chose to come to the UK. I don't expect to go abroad and have everyone love Britain.
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    There is an issue with integration of foreign students, which is complex and one that varies depending on many parameters: from the EU or outside, from an english-speaking country or not: doing a full degree or an exchange student.

    I really don't think that specific nationality societies encourage this though. The ones I know of perform two main functions (1) being a safety net and providing support for unhappy students (i.e. a backup if socializing with the wider student body fails), and (2) promoting their culture (e.g. by cooking national cuisine), which obviously interacts with UK students.
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    Also, Paul White may just be on a mission to piss-off Sheffield's Union: http://forgetoday.com/news/womens-of...inappropriate/
 
 
 
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