Higher Education

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 129–140 | Cite as

A holistic approach to international students, institutional habitus and academic literacies in an Irish third level institution

  • Vera SheridanEmail author


This qualitative study examines the interplay between academic staff and international students with regard to developing academic literacies at university. Higher education has traditionally responded to increasing student diversity with the expectation that students will conform to institutional norms or habitus. In this context international students arrive with cultural capital which may not fit such norms, and would benefit from developing their academic literacy, as indeed would home students given an increasingly diverse student body in Irish higher education. Findings reveal a gap between academics expectations and international students’ capabilities. Academic staff remained within the remit of the research in contrast to the 22 international students who were interviewed. They did not separate the totality of their campus experience from academic literacy practices. These ranged from uncertainty around writing in another language to a mismatch between diversity management in class and students’ own expectations. International students found difficulty to making friends on campus which could benefit their integration into the academic literacy practices of their respective disciplines. Findings point towards a whole institution response to student diversity which transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.


Academic literacy Diversity Cultural capital Institutional habitus Intercultural classroom Intercultural friendship 



This research was supported by Dublin City University Careerstart Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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