Exploring the Experiences of South Asian Students in Undergraduate Programmes: A Case Study in a New Zealand University
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South Asians are a minority group generally reported in New Zealand as part of the category ‘Asian’. Studies in New Zealand have raised questions about how the huge diversity of peoples from Asia or from Asian backgrounds can be covered by the generic term ‘Asian’. The process of acknowledging and accepting South Asians as a minority group has been an ongoing debate globally. This thesis focuses on domestic South Asian students in New Zealand universities by asking: • What measures have been successful in improving outcomes for domestic South Asian undergraduate students at AUT? This research reported in this thesis used a single case study approach to study domestic South Asian students enrolled in bachelors programmes at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). The study used mixed modes of data collection, both qualitative and quantitative, to conduct the research. Analysis of quantitative data found that there has been a growth in the domestic South Asian population in the Auckland region but an underrepresentation of this population in bachelor’s degree enrolments at AUT. Furthermore, domestic South Asian students’ degree completion rates in AUT are below the university average rate of completion. However, the lack of sufficiently detailed data means these problems are largely masked by South Asian students being subsumed into the category ‘Asian’. Universities in New Zealand and institutions in the tertiary education system more generally, need to collect more fine-grained data so that the performance of different groups of students can be observed and responded to appropriately where necessary. Interviews with 16 participants from academic and professional staff at AUT and two focus groups with nine domestic South Asian students studying at AUT, were carried out and participants invited to share their experiences. Staff shared their experiences of teaching and supporting students and the students shared their current experiences of their study journey at AUT. Four themes emerged from the qualitative data: 1) the absence of fine-grained data to inform participation and completion of domestic South Asian students in undergraduate programs; 2) issues with academic and support services offered to students; 3) the absence of South Asians in university policy and strategy; and 4) a lack of acceptance and acknowledgement that meant participants felt difficulty in integrating into and feeling part of the wider student body. In addition, as a minority group, students encountered financial hardship when combining work and study, and if they did not have targeted financial support or scholarships. Despite efforts made by AUT to provide academic and pastoral support to students overall, this study finds that minority domestic South Asian students within the broader Asian group are struggling and the lack of adequate support for these students has serious implications for them, and for universities such as AUT.