Australian universities, largely for economic reasons, are enrolling more and more international students. Adapting to study in Australia is often a big challenge for those students. To adapt to and do well in the Australian education system, international students have to acquire competency not only in the English language, but also in Australian educational practices, which are largely culturally defined. However, Australia needs to approach international students with cultural competency.

Cultural competency is defined as [1] the ability to interact well with people that come from a different culture than your own. This capability is built as people compare one culture with another and gain an understanding of similarities and differences. This happens when people travel, host people in their homes, work or go to school with people from another culture. As a person meets more people from a variety of cultures, comparisons expand and deepen, and the result is a person who can recognise and appreciate the wide range of differences in people.



  Cultural Competence Framework


Australian academics appear to demonstrate very little knowledge of education practices in other countries and lack some cultural competence. There seems to be an established belief that Australian practices are somehow better than those existing in other countries. There is also a need for Australian academics to understand and accept that different educational systems have their own conventions. Therefore, it is necessary for academics to consider international students not as students disabled by their lack of familiarity with English and the learning conventions that exist in Australia, but as students who come with different strengths who have a contribution to make.

Too often Australian academics portray international students as not being able to reach the high standards existing in Australia. These students regularly are the objects of stereotyping. [2] In general, international students continue to be widely criticised for their poor English skills, for their inability to think critically, and for their extensive practice of plagiarism. Emphasising many of these stereotyped ideas is the assumed belief that the Australian education system is superior, rather than just different, than those existing in countries abroad. Generally this goes hand in hand with a very superficial understanding of students’ previous learning experiences.

International students are too often considered for their economic value, while the benefits of the different cultural competencies they can bring to a university are often ignored. Few have questioned what international students bring in terms of experience and knowledge and a lot of adjustment has been asked from international students. Little adjustment appears to have been done by teaching academics who seem to expect students to adapt. If universities are going to continue attracting international students and want to be successful at integrating and educating these students, they must also develop their programs by becoming internationally and culturally competent institutions. This cannot be done without the participation of academics themselves, who need to develop intercultural competencies.

Recommended Readings: Cultural Competence: Framework for Teaching




[1] R. Applegate. 2012. Michigan State University Extension. ‘Hosting International Students Increases Cultural Competency’. Available from: [2 September 2015]

[2] J. Vandermensbrugghe. 2004. University of Canberra. ‘International Educational Journal Vol 5, No 3, 2004’. Available from: <…/paper.DOC> [2 September 2015]

[3] S. Khorana. 2015. University of Wollongong. ‘Internationalising Education and Cultural Competence’. Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 12 August 2015.

Image 1: <;

Image 2: <;


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s