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Title: Aligning expectations to experiences : a qualitative study of international students enrolled on privately provided UK university pathway programmes
Author: Cunnington, Mark John
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 5117
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Against a neoliberal backdrop impelling evolving changes to university funding and income streams, the private pathway sector has established itself in the last decade as a key partner in recruiting and teaching international students for universities. Pathway providers deliver year-long courses for international students, usually at university-based Study Centres. Almost 50% of UK pathway programmes are delivered for universities in partnership with private providers (ICEF, 2016a). Typically, Foundation programmes permit students access to undergraduate university Degrees. A risk posed is that in the commercial drive to increase international student numbers, a mismatch occurs between students' perceptions of a university's pathway programme and the students' subsequent experiences. This thesis examines whether the early experiences of international students on UK-university based, privately delivered Foundation programmes, matched their expectations set during recruitment. A qualitative study using Mazzarol & Soutar's (2002) "pull" factors as the theoretical basis for the research, 35 international students enrolled on privately delivered Foundation programmes at six UK universities took part in focus groups and online interviews. The participants provided direct insights into their reasons for studying in the UK, their expectations established during the recruitment process and subsequent on-campus experiences. Data from the focus groups and interviews were initially open coded in an inductive process, with further coding deductively testing the presence or absence of themes in international student literature. Online interviews with participants further explored premises established from the focus groups. The research established five major findings to better align students' expectations to their experiences. Students' families are key influencers and should be engaged more during decision-making; personalised digital information tools should be leveraged to better set and managing student expectations; students must experience responsive 'customer service' during their pre- and post-arrival; misaligned early impressions of a university Study Centre hugely influences student experiences and satisfaction; and pathway providers must promote the pedagogical uniqueness of their offering and quality of teaching staff to prospective students. With little literature examining international pathway provision, specifically pertaining to international student expectations and experiences, the research contributes new knowledge to this fast-growing international sector.
Supervisor: Korzh, Alla ; Willis, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral