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Language and literacy skills of home and international university students: How different are they, and does it matter?

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JournalBilingualism: Language and Cognition
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 5 Apr 2018
Early online date5/04/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Although international students experience lower attainment at university than home students (Morrison et al., 2005), reasons are poorly understood. Some question the role of language proficiency as international students come with required language qualifications. This study investigated language and literacy of international students who successfully met language entry requirements and those of home students, matched on non-verbal cognition, studying in their native language. In a sample of 63 Chinese and 64 British students at a UK university, large and significant group differences were found at entry and eight months later. Furthermore, language and literacy indicators explained 51% of variance in the Chinese group’s grades, without predicting the home students’ achievement. Thus language proficiency appears predictive of academic outcomes only before a certain threshold is reached, and this threshold does not correspond to the minimum language entry requirements. This highlights a systematic disadvantage with which many international students pursue their education.

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