Centralisation and Decentralisation of International Student Support: Getting the Best of Both Worlds
Nowadays universities do not need to be convinced that their student support services should take into account international students as well. However, a specific configuration of the support system depends on both external and internal factors. A lot is shaped by the context: national regulation, predominant language(s) in the country, changing demands of the job market; but no less important is the university’s strategy, i.e., the decisions on how to develop while taking the context into account.
Language barrier is the first and major hindrance in accessing the system of student support. The second obstacle is the lack of flexible interface for every university service, which would take into account the diversity of student body. In such circumstances, and when the number of international students is relatively small, it is often easier and more effective to start with a centralised approach, as it allows to ensure adequate and timely support of predictable quality to incoming international students.
However, despite the impression that this way a student can resolve all the issues in one place, it is a quasi-onestop service because the central office is not a provider of university services but a mediator between students and relevant units. Consequently, it becomes the bottleneck which slows processes down when the number of international students grows. Moreover, a separate track of support creates an isolated bubble for international students, providing fewer possibilities for intercultural experience and, thus, increasing the risk of creating a split university.