UBC Graduate Research

University student retention and the international student : engaging universities in student success programming Verkerk, Kathryn


The Government of Canada has prioritized international students1 as an important avenue for immigration; as such, the government plans to double the number of international students entering Canada by 2022 (Government of Canada, 2010). Likewise, the Province of British Columbia, in support of this initiative, would like 50% of Canada’s international students to be studying at an institution within the province (British Columbia Ministry of Higher Education, 2012). As a result, British Columbia’s universities, such as the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), are pushing to increase their enrollment of international students by 2020. Although the enrollment of international students is on the rise, many universities have not differentiated their academic and social services in support of the unique needs of international students in academic difficulty. As institutions invest more resources in recruiting increasing numbers of international students, “it is in their best interest to retain these students and gain the full educational, cultural, and economical benefits of an internationally diverse student body” (Mamiseishvili, 2012, p. 2). Student retention is much more cost effective than recruiting new students; therefore, universities should focus equal attention on retention, rather than limiting their scope to recruitment and admission. This paper will explore the support services available to international students, specifically those in academic difficulty, with an analysis of student success programs. Through a detailed literature review, I will evaluate how universities support their international student population and the types of student success programs that exist for those in academic difficulty (i.e. on academic probation and/or required to withdraw). I will conclude by tracing the history of SFU’s Back on Track program and suggest an institutional framework, which is informed by the literature on international student retention.

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