Investing in success of international students: Understanding needs and behaviors of diverse segments

International student segmentation is one of the frameworks that helps us understand the changing needs and behaviors of international students. First launched in 2012 with the research report Not All International Students Are the Same, the segmentation framework aims to inform enrollment strategies and practices in the context of the diverse needs, motivations and preferences of international students.

The framework identified four segments of students along two dimensions: academic preparedness and financial resources.
-Strivers: High academic preparedness; low financial resources
-Strugglers: Low academic preparedness; low financial resources
-Explorers: Low academic preparedness; high financial resources
-Highfliers: High academic preparedness; high financial resources

The core contribution of this framework is to encourage higher education institutions to understand students beyond aggregate numbers and recognize the diversity of their needs and expectations. This framework also provides a lens to understand “glocal” students in transnational education or in a cross-border context. Several scholars have further investigated the framework to deepen our understanding of international students. However, this has to widen in scope if we are to discover and define international student success.

Research on international student success 

An emerging and expanding area of research goes beyond international student mobility trends to investigate and invest in student success. Research and evidence on how campus experiences contribute to and inhibit the success of international students are rather limited.

In the US, one of the first attempts to research and understand areas of improvement for institutional practices was through NAFSA’s research report titled Bridging the Gap: Recruitment and retention to improve international student experiences. It illustrated the gap between what students think are important areas of satisfaction and what institutions think are important for students. Likewise, the UK and Australia are attempting to better understand and address these issues.

To advance this research agenda, I am serving as the guest editor on the special issue on International Student Success for the Journal of International Students. The aim of this issue is to provide evidence and insights for institutions to improve institutional practices and help international students succeed in their academic and career pursuits.

In most countries, international students pay more in tuition fees and receive less in services than their domestic counterparts. By only focusing on input metrics like recruitment goals rather than student success, institutions run the risk of damaging their reputation and competitive positioning. Institutions cannot take the academic and career success of their international students for granted. Let us work toward investigating and investing in international student success.

* This is an edited version of my article published in UniversityWorldNews *

Dr. Rahul Choudaha