The Experience of International Students With English L2 in a Scottish Further Education College

Smith, Angela (2014). The Experience of International Students With English L2 in a Scottish Further Education College. EdD thesis The Open University.



In the early years of the twenty-first century, Scottish Further Education Colleges experienced a decline in student intake as a result of demographic changes and competition within the tertiary education sector. As a result, one such college actively sought new students from outside its core student base, specifically targeting both international students and migrant workers, most of whom speak English as a second language. Subsequently, these students have often been perceived by the academic staff as not achieving their full academic potential because of issues around English language competence. This thesis takes a case study approach, drawing on sociocultural theory, to examine the experiences of five such students and their lecturers in the college, in order to explore factors contributing to this perceived lack of success. The research used semi-structured interviews, as well as learning centre observations, college marketing and policy documentation and an analysis of statistical data on student academic attainment. The interviews gave five students an opportunity to talk about their experiences of the college as well as allowing eight staff members to relate their perceptions of the students. Staff were also asked about the challenges they faced as professionals in meeting the required learning outcomes of the curriculum, while balancing the needs of students with those of the college. Both thematic and discourse analysis were applied to the data to explore structural themes suggested by the research questions around language competence, language support, educational expectations and both staff/student and student/student relationships. This analysis also exposed specific emergent themes for each group: for the students, conflicting identities as they try to balance the opportunity costs of their investment in their education against other aspects of their life: and, for the lecturers, perceptions of the ‘ideal student’ and their own professional identity.

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