The Culture of Australian Universities Essay Example

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The Culture of Australian Universities

Culture is the source of identity and it delineates how individuals are, think, communicate, value and what they belief to be important in their life (Zheng, Yang & McLean, 2010). It constitutes patterns of behaviour and thinking which people living in a given societal context learn, construct and share (Zheng et al., 2010). In the context of education institutions, Universities in Australia have their own distinct culture and students, especially those from other countries, often find it challenging to adjust to this culture and the life situation in the universities. As such, it is expected that students’ physical and psychological well-beings and their academic performance can be affected by the challenges of adjusting to the culture. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the culture of Australian Universities, and based on my own experience, the problems students are likely to encounter successfully adjusting to this culture.

According to Putnam & Gill (2011), Australian Universities have traditionally attracted students from high socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Many students from the background adapt easily to the life in the university and to the ‘culture of academia’ which prevails in Australian Universities. However, some students, especially those from low SES feel uncomfortable in this culture and experience a greater challenge in becoming used to practices in the universities. Student learning at the universities is viewed by analysts as a training experience that strongly depends on prior knowledge and background, more pervasively than just school subjects (Putnam & Gill, 2011). The explanation for this according to Archer & Leathwood (2003 cited in Putnam & Gill, 2011) is that, while at the universities, students are exposed to institutional controls through practices, such as strict examinations, regulated communications of lectures, and the grading system characterized by rewards and punishments. Additionally, students are constrained by their own knowledge and this knowledge is created through discourses that are socially dominant, including those which universities themselves produce and maintain (Putnam & Gill, 2011). Definitely, this situation makes it difficult for some students to successfully adapt to university practices.

Besides the issue of SES, the Australian universities are accustomed to problem-based approach of teaching and learning. In regard to this, students are expected to active participants during important academic activities, such as tutorial discussions, irrespective of how they would want learning to be conducted (Cameron & Kirkman, 2010). Universities in Australia emphasize the need for students to write appropriately any academic content given to them in the form of assignments. This is an aspect all students must uphold throughout their university education. The universities expected all students to be critical in their studies, cite appropriately and be aware of all academic rules (Cameron & Kirkman, 2010). There is no doubt that many students find it difficult to adjust these practices in Australian universities.

In particular, students in Australian universities may face problems, such as difficulties in adapting to learning styles, lack of participation in discussion and debate, regular plagiarizing and adjusting to learning atmosphere (Hellsten, 2002), as they successfully adjust to the culture in the universities. Learning the culture of the universities is an important aspect of the successful adjusting to new learning environment for students. Students acquire full transition to this culture, not through explicit learning, but trial and error as observes Hellsten (2002). For students who are accustomed to passive approach to teaching and learning, they may find it difficult to cope up with learning that is more problem-based and interactive in nature, yet this is the order of the day in Australian universities. The learning style involves discussions and argument, not excluding critical thinking (Thomson, Rosenthal & Russell, 2006). For students who are new in the universities, they are likely to experience a lot of challenge in meeting these expectations from the universities.

As mentioned earlier, the tendency by Australian universities to attract mainly students from high SES backgrounds brings about the problem of social interaction among students. The international students find it extremely challenging to achieve a gratifying level of social interaction with local students. Equally, students from low SES backgrounds find it uncomfortable to socially interact with those from high SES background (Thomson et al., 2006). Consequently, students may experience distress in areas of discrimination and prejudice and also become more concerned about their loneliness. These perceptions, according to Thomson et al. (2006) strongly relate to feelings of students that they are not connected with the universities.

The discussion above is based on my own experience at the university, especially during the first year. As a first year student in the university, I had a lot of expectations in terms of getting very high grades and meeting and having good times with other student from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This was not the case as I had to face new realities; I had moved into a different environment of learning. What stroke me more is coming to terms with assessment standards expected from me and the skills required in preparing for these assessments, such as how reference and the general writing skills. Additionally, unlike in school where I was not used to participate in class discussions and presentations, I realized things were very different at the university. The teaching and learning styles is more participatory and good enough I am now used to it because I can now contribute to discussions in class and even make a presentation before other students. Besides, I found some students unfriendly and this really discouraged, which made me to develop feelings of lack of connectedness in the university. Thanks to my tutors and the academic orientation exercise which supported me to adjust to the practices in the university and I ma proud to say that my experience at the university at the moment is extremely remarkable.

Conclusively, like any other institutions, Australian universities have their own culture which students often find difficult to adapt. The universities have and continue to attract students from high SES backgrounds and uphold problem-based approach of teaching and learning. Therefore, students are expected to adhere to these practices, which is a challenge to many. The good news is that with time students successfully adjust to this culture and find learning experiences at the university very interesting.


Cameron, H., & Kirkman, C. (2010, June). Managing culture shock for first year international students entering Australian universities. In first year in higher education conference, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.

Hellstén, M. (2002). Students in transition: Needs and experiences of international students in Australia. Macquarie University.

Putnam, T., & Gill, J. (2011). The Bradley challenge: A sea change for Australian universities?. Issues in Educational Research, 21(2), 176-191.

Thomson, G., Rosenthal, D., & Russell, J. (2006). Cultural stress among international students at an Australian university. In Proceedings of Australian International Education Conference (Perth, Australia) (pp. 1-8).

Zheng, W., Yang, B., & McLean, G. N. (2010). Linking organizational culture, structure, strategy, and organizational effectiveness: Mediating role of knowledge management. Journal of Business Research, 63(7), 763-771