Issues facing Japanese postgraduate students studying at the University of London, with special reference to gender
This study is based on interviews and questionnaires with 52 Japanese postgraduate students (25 women and 27 men) at the University of London and the author's participant observation. It examines (1) the issues Japanese postgraduate students face while studying abroad, (2) what made them decide to study abroad, and (3) their thoughts on the period following their course, all with special reference to gender. Previous studies on international students have tended to focus on academic life, overlooking how personal life affects academic performance. They have also tended to treat international students as a homogeneous group, missing the differences, for example, in nationality, gender and level of study. As a fellow student, I felt from daily observation, that women faced more issues, particularly personal issues, than men. The principal findings are that women, single women with financial support from their parents in particular, tended to suffer from more issues and in more complicated ways than men. The only issue clearly common to both women and men is language proficiency. Issues particularly serious in their intensity among women were often in relation to marriage and parents. In contrast, issues among men centred on their careers. These gender differences are a reflection of gender expectations in the wider Japanese society. Issues specific to women and men were also closely linked to each individual's decision to study abroad, and to their future plans. The findings highlight the need for further research on the condition of international students which (1) uses qualitative international students, (2) divides students into special groups, (3) pays greater attention to both educational and personal aspects of their lives, and (4) examining the links among international students' reasons for deciding to study abroad, the issues which they may encounter while studying abroad, and their aspirations for the post-course period. Such research would help to promote new policies and practices to improve the welfare of international students in the UK, and hence this country's capacity to attract more students.