Psychosocial and mental health challenges of international students compared to British students in UK universities
AuthorsAlsaad, Khaled Saeed M.
AffiliationUniversity of Bedfordshire
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractAccording to Harman (2004), international students were one of the main sources of finance in the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. These students may face many difficulties once they arrive in countries like the UK, trying to adjust to their new surroundings. They confront, for example, more difficulties and challenges than the British students beginning a university course, especially if English is not their first language and the culture of their motherland is substantially different from British culture. Apart from language and cultural barriers, other reported difficulties include high academic demand, missing family and friends, lack of social support, lower self-confidence, deficiencies with study skills and a need to have more assertiveness (Poyrazli et al., 2002). Currently, not enough research has been published regarding acculturative stress and social support, including its relationship with psychological mental health amongst international students studying at UK universities. The main purposes of this study were threefold: (1) investigate the association between mental health and psychosocial variables amongst both international and British students (in UK universities); (2) explore the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of international students in the context of acculturation, while they study abroad in the UK universities; and finally (3) to triangulate and integrate the findings of this study obtained from two distinct approaches of combined results. A concurrent triangulation mixed methods design was employed, consisting of three main studies. (a) I (Pilot study): a quantitative study employing simple yet effective cross-sectional approaches through its intention to using sample data; (b) II (Main study): a quantitative method specifically utilising cross-sectional design using authoritative data; and (c) III: a qualitative research conducting semi-structured interviews (using two qualitative questionnaires) to examine the metaphors participants used to describe their experiences in the host society. Study I: A snowball purposive sampling technique was used to select 358 students (international and British) studying in UK universities. Three different UK universities were selected. Eight pre-existing questionnaires were first tested for validity and reliability, then were utilised to examine the relationships between mental health and seven other independent variables. Study II: A snowball purposive sampling technique was used to select 796 students (international and British) studying in UK universities. Ten different UK universities were selected. The previous eight pre-existing questionnaires used in Study I were used in Study II, but the difference was that GHQ-12 was replaced by GHQ-28, and the IAI and SAI forms of the Three Assimilation Indexes were excluded. Study III: A snowball purposive sampling technique was used to select 30 students (international) studying in three UK universities. A semi-structured interview was conducted with these students. This study used thematic analysis to categorise metaphors and analyse the qualitative data. With a response rate of 82%, Study I showed that international students from the Middle East are less affected by cultural distress than other students from outside of Europe. In addition, many students find themselves leaning more towards religion to deal with the new cultural environment. Study II had an 80% response rate and found that there was an association between three out of five predictor variables (coping flexibility, social support and coping) with mental health, for both international and British students. In addition, the study found that there was an association between three out of seven predictor variables (coping strategy, religious problem solving, and acculturation) with mental health in international students. In Study III, the metaphors supported the quantitative results in terms of finding that a substantial number of the respondents had negative feelings about living in the UK and found the new setting depressing. The findings of the two quantitative studies (Study I and Study II) found that there is an association between international students and British students and coping flexibility with mental health. This finding has been confirmed by Study III which addressed metaphorical phrases used by international students. These findings indicate that interventions are strongly required in order to prevent and control potential psychological problems in both groups. The main recommendations are that regular training sessions should be provided for all international students, giving strategies for coping with the new culture. It is concluded that social support played a moderating role in the relationship between culture stress as well as mental health only in international students. These findings imply that strategies could be created to help students to cope with their mental issues and reduce the impact of distress they experience during their study. This might have a positive effect on their academic achievement consequently.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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