Postgraduate communities need addressing according to report

Photo credit: York GSA

Photo credit: York GSA

A recent study of postgraduate communities at York has highlighted problems with the way in which students and colleges are structured, prohibiting postgraduate students from mixing successfully.

The report also cites the increased internationalisation of campus as a contributing factor to the weakening communities.
It outlines that: “Opportunities to avoid encountering British culture have increased and integrating with a variety of students is no longer essential for international students.”

It is an issue for Chinese students who have come here looking for a European experience

Jane Grenville, Pro-Vice-Chancellor

83 per cent of students surveyed said that diversity affects their sense of community and students interviewed commented that “Wentworth does not encourage socialising” and that “too many international students damage community experience”.

Karin Diaconu, the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) President, commenting on the study and the implications it has for the way Postgraduates are organised and provided for, said: “The problem is in creating greater social interaction”.

“The problem of international groups, for example, the Chinese in Wentworth, is diversity; however, this is something found in undergraduate areas as well.”

“Once students come you need to engage with them from the start. We did a lot of this at the start of term with the Welcome Week, and at the Halloween party this year, 300 students attended and there was a real mix.”

There are 2,927 international postgraduate students (including the EU) which accounts for 89 per cent of the population. The University’s policy of guaranteeing international students on-campus accommodation was criticised, as 78 per cent of Wentworth’s students come from Asia, causing little cultural exchange.

The study stated that: “Many of the international students consulted reported feeling disappointed upon arrival in York when they discovered they would not be living among a variety of students”.

Darren Webb, a postgraduate student, described the divide between Departments, saying: “I have had plenty of contact with other postgraduate students – sometimes, too much”.

“As an international student, part of the Humanities Research Centre, the History Department, and the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, there are several social and academic options open to me. York’s real shortfall is the division between Humanities, Sciences, and Professional Studies students.”

The study suggested that the greatest opportunity for social interaction was in Departments because of the shared common interest and quantity of time spent there by students.

Webb added: “This division was heightened by the Hes East and West split – a damn shame. As far as I can see, graduate students at York don’t have much meaningful interdisciplinary contact.”

Due to the nature of postgraduate study, many students will not need to travel around campus creating fewer opportunities for interaction in the community.

However the report highlighted the need for this to be reversed, stating that: “‘Accidental interaction’, meeting and socialising with people in an unintentional manner, needs to be encouraged.”

Jane Grenville, Pro Vice-Chancellor for students, acknowledged that there were problems with postgraduate communities at the moment and especially for the international cohort.

“It is an issue for Chinese students who have come here looking for a European experience. [But] we are in negotiations for a new postgraduate student residence on Hull Road which would enable us to offer more room to more British, American and European students. We are hoping to have this ready in time for October 2012.”

Diaconu continued: “Undergraduates are different because they are younger and have a STYC system to help them; 80 per cent of international students won’t know about the collegiate system.”

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