Work Integrated Learning: A Case Study of Chinese Students in an Australian University

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Nguyen, Tien Cuong (2020) Work Integrated Learning: A Case Study of Chinese Students in an Australian University. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


International students make a major contribution to Australia, financially and through adding to human capital for a skilled workforce. Given the significant role that international students play in Australia's education, their employment and an understanding of their related issues requires further examination. In response to the demand for greater employability and graduate attributes, Australian institutions have increasingly embedded Work Integrated Learning (WIL) into their curricula. In order to conduct successful WIL programmes, it is of great importance to gain an insight into the experience and perceptions of key stakeholders, especially international students who are a valuable student cohort in Australian Universities. In designing WIL models, Australian institutions largely assume that students, regardless of their background and context, desire the same certain outcomes which are often common to most, a "one size fits all‟ solution. To date, the effectiveness of a uniform application of WIL models has attracted little attention, especially from the perspectives of international students who, on completion, return to their country where they encounter different working environments, and business protocols. This study employs a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis and uses two instruments for collecting data, namely an online survey and semi-structured interviews. The two groups of stakeholders who participated in the study were Chinese graduates from Victoria University (VU) who undertook some form of WIL or work placement in Australia as part of their coursework, and VU staff who were engaged in the management, supervision, development or delivery of WIL programmes. Chinese students represent the largest international student cohort at VU; therefore, this particular student cohort was identified as a key focus of the study. This study explores and interprets the experiences and perceptions of international students and staff from VU regarding the value of WIL programmes in terms of graduate attributes, graduate employability, challenges and institutional support. It reveals several main themes regarding the experience and perceptions of WIL by VU international students and staff. These themes revolve around the contribution of WIL to the development of international students‟ language, interpersonal skills, technical knowledge, cultural awareness, and personal attributes. For each theme, the study analyses the expectations of international students, the development of relevant skills through WIL, and the extent to which these skills are transferrable to the work settings in their home country. The study also examines the challenges that international students face as a result of their international student status, the lack of prior work experience, the lack of an understanding of the Australian labour market, and their financial constraints. It also explores the extent to which the University provides support for WIL and provides suggestions to improve the development and implementation of WIL programmes. These themes are discussed with specific reference to VU's Chinese student cohort. Graduate employability for international students is the running concept that informs and connects emerging themes for the key findings of the study. It is found that VU's placement models have, to a large extent, been implemented in alignment with the University's core values and missions for graduate employability. However, mostly the same approach has been used to facilitate the delivery of WIL to students while the practical needs and circumstances of international students are not always attended to. The findings of the research reinforce those of previous studies, which acknowledge the positive benefits of WIL to the outcomes of international graduate students. On the other hand, it also raises concerns over the multiple challenges that international students face during their WIL participation. These include language and communication barriers, inadequate knowledge of the workplace, cultural differences, and international student status. The study shows that there are some differences between the employment culture in Australia and China that suggest the WIL models for international students in general, and Chinese students in particular, by VU should be developed and implemented with more attention to the particular needs of students and take into account their possible context of employment following their graduation. The findings indicate that more support needs to be allocated to international students since the challenges they face are specific in nature, differing from those needs of domestic students.

Additional Information

Doctor of Education

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords international students; Australia; work integrated learning; Chinese students; Victoria University; work placement; graduate attributes; graduate employability; university support; language development; cultural awareness; interpersonal communication
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