Difficulties encountered by Arab Muslim international students in Higher Education in the UK: a case study of a Welsh university
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The UK is a popular destination for international students, a considerable number of whom are Arab Muslims. This case study was undertaken in an attempt to identify difficulties encountered by this student population in particular, upon coming to live and study in the UK as international students. The student sample for this study included 46 male and female students from nine Arab countries, some of whom were undergraduates and some postgraduates, studying at a UK university. The main aim of the study was to explore the nature of difficulties facing this specific student group, to identify problems they shared with other international students, and other problems that were unique to them as Arab Muslims living in a non-Muslim country. The study also sought to investigate the way in which such difficulties affected their academic achievement and their general sense of well-being, while taking residence in the UK. Data for the research were collected through an online questionnaire, a focus group, and students' diaries, providing a range of quantitative and qualitative data for deep and detailed analysis. The range of results from this case study suggested that, from the perspective of the student sample, there were two types of difficulties facing international Arab Muslim students. The first type was difficulties encountered by almost all international students, such as suffering homesickness, trying to cope with a new cultural environment, trying to deal with an unfamiliar educational system, and inability to form meaningful friendships with British students. The second type of faced difficulties was specific to this group of student population. The most prominent of these were difficulty fulfilling a number of basic practical needs, such as finding halal food on/off campus and finding an adequate place to do ablution and perform prayers on campus, next, the difficulty of living in the mixed-gender, multi-faith flats provided by university for student accommodation, and finally, suffering poor treatment and discrimination on the part of some UK nationals, which students found to be the most challenging. Results suggested that problems of the first type were temporary and much easier to overcome than the more lasting ones of the second type, which were found to have negatively affected students' sense of well-being living in the UK. None of the two types of problems, however, was found to significantly affect students' academic achievement. It was concluded that there would be merit in repeating the present case study and developing larger scale research on a bigger student sample and over a longer period of time, in order to fully and deeply understand the range of difficulties encountered by lnternational Muslim university students in the UK. Such understanding could benefit policy makers, campus administrators, as well as tutors to find ways to help lnternational Muslim students overcome their difficulties in order to be able to reap the full benefits of their international experience of studying in the UK.
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