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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Employing Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and capital to Investigate the international student experience within the field of higher education

Marjoribanks, Bruce (2013) Employing Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and capital to Investigate the international student experience within the field of higher education. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This thesis explored the interplay of capital and habitus during the acculturation process of international students whilst studying in HE institutions in one geographical area. It examined how they employed capital and habitus in their new multicultural context to determine whether they were passive recipients or active participants in the field of UK Higher Education. It sought to question the culturally diverse learners’ experiences with respect to their studying and living conditions in the UK; how personal and situational variables affected their early adjustment processes; how they adjusted to the classroom and university experience, and to life in the local community. The purpose of the thesis is to build theory in relation to how international students immerse themselves in new contexts and to use this theory to support or challenge current educational discourses in the area of intercultural competency in Higher Education.
The research was carried out across three Higher Education institutions which were located in one geographical area. It uses data generated from semi-structured interviews with thirty students enrolled in the Business Administration, Applied Science and Engineering, and Medical and Health schools which have the highest enrolments of international students.
Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and capital were used as a novel lens through which to view the international student experience. Interpretivist hermeneutics were used in the analysis of the data. The main finding is that capital and habitus does lead to international student inclusion or exclusion within Higher Education provision. The findings indicate that the international students’ did actively use their capital and habitus to realise their goals in spite of barriers imposed by social and cultural reproduction. The new dispositions are as a result of developing capitals and habitus that is distinctive to each individual. There is often a dissonance between the primary and secondary habitus embodied in the individual, which leads to new identities and agency. The international students’ utilise strategic agency to develop their capital and habitus. This confirms capital and habitus leads to active participation in the international student experience.
The findings suggests further investigation of current international education policy and practice as currently international students are not contributing towards the internationalisation of universities, rather it is the international students who are becoming internationally competent and diversity is being contained. Dialogue to promote intercultural understanding between international students and home-based students is not widely occurring. This suggests that opportunities to develop intercultural competencies are not being fully accommodated or recognised with current Higher Education policy priorities regarding internationalisation at home. In spite of marginalisation within the universities and the communities, the international students are developing comparative and international perspectives and intercultural competencies through their experiences. Educators must acknowledge and respond to the dissonance as well as the cultural and linguistic diversity of the communities they serve if they want to encourage dialogue and reciprocity to develop intercultural competencies.

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Depositing User: Leah Maughan


Item ID: 12685

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Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2020 10:51
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2020 11:00


Author: Bruce Marjoribanks

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