Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Curtin University


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: Harryba, S. A., Guilfoyle, A. , & Knight, S. (2011). Staff perspectives on the role of English proficiency in providing support services. Paper presented at the Teaching and Learning Forum 2011. Curtin University. Perth, Australia. Available here


A case study approach was applied to understand the challenges of offering support services to international students (IS) within a university setting. A social constructivist theoretical framework informed the collection and analysis of data. Perspectives from service providers - general and academic staff members and international students were triangulated. To date, 63 participants have been interviewed and preliminary findings show that although international students encounter a number of academic and socio-cultural difficulties during university transition, many do not access support services offered by university for various reasons including; perceived language and cultural barriers, unawareness, feeling uncomfortable; and avoiding any stigma associated with help-seeking. The data shows service providers too have reported difficulties when working with international students, such as cultural and language barriers, lack of staff, funding and training. The focus of the current paper will be on one of the major themes explicating these tensions, namely English proficiency which acts as a pervasive barrier for both staff service provision and students service utilisation. Implications of findings, recommendations for universities and direction for future research will be discussed in reference to this theme.

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