Worry over Murdoch University's 'underprepared' international students
Many are questioning Murdoch University's admission policies. Source: Facebook/@MurdochUniversity

A lecturer’s encounter with an international student at the Australian university has raised concerns over whether this group of students is academically prepared for the course they are enrolled in.

In an e-mail to senior staff, obtained by The West AustralianMurdoch University academic Gerd Schroeder-Turk detailed how a first-year student from India had asked him to waive a prerequisite maths unit. This student’s lack of math background, coupled with her poor command of English, showed the student is “underprepared” for university, he wrote.

“Put simply, some of these students appear to be either not ready for university at all or, particularly for those who join us for postgraduate course work study, not ready for the course they have enrolled in,” he wrote. He called for their mental wellbeing to be protected.

His concerns apply to most of the international student community, which comprise significantly of those from India and are shared by his colleagues across numerous disciplines.

Yet, admission standards have not been dropped at Murdoch University, thus leading Schroeder-Turk to speculate about the strength of the university’s check and balances:

“I appreciate that, on paper, our admission standards have not been dropped … I can only speculate that we must have become complacent in checking diligently that the qualifications correspond to actual learning or knowledge standards.”

“Maybe the wave of under-performing students in semester one took us all by surprise and maybe we do not fully understand why our usual checks and balances did not work to ensure adequate student standards,” he wrote.

The e-mail follows a recent report that the university is investigating its international students over allegations of cheating as well as their poor command of English.

The National Tertiary Education Union’s West Australian Division secretary Gabe Gooding said there was a concern some students had been enrolled without the capacity to undertake the courses, leading to increased staff workloads, The West Australian reported.

“Union members have described students requiring interpreters in classes, refusing to stop collaborating during exams, being unable to undertake basic tasks and a high failure rate in first semester this year,” she said.

“We have been told by our members that students who can barely write an e-mail are then subsequently handing in assignments in fluent English.”

Murdoch University Provost Romy Lawson said its English language proficiency ratings follow international benchmarks

“We also promptly manage cases of academic misconduct, which occurs in fewer than 0.5 percent of students — both international and domestic,” Lawson said.

“Murdoch works with a broad range of international recruitment agencies who are cognisant of the admissions standards the university uses to assess student applications.”

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