CAKES (Cultural Awareness and Knowledge Exchange Scheme): a holistic and inclusive approach to supporting international students

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Transition support for international students has traditionally adopted deficit models which attempt to ‘fix’ assumed academic literacy problems. This study explores a more culturally inclusive initiative which supported international students at a UK university in a holistic and developmental way. The initiative was delivered across an academic year and a mix of focus groups and semi-structured interviews were undertaken for evaluation purposes. Although small-scale, the initiative emerged as a lively learning community which was highly successful in facilitating both academic and sociocultural transition. Qualitative data illuminate a number of fruitful methodological foci, including informality of the learning space and exploration of intercultural learning and teaching practices. Findings indicate that these cultural explorations were instrumental in helping students navigate the new learning and teaching system and forge a stronger sense of academic and social belonging. These outcomes were cultivated within an ethos that valued and enhanced the diverse skills, identities and attributes that students brought, rather than one that suppressed their previous learning practices. Findings thus demonstrate how transition and academic success can be facilitated in ways that do not problematize international students and highlight the need for more holistic and inclusive ways of supporting them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-288
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2018


  • international students
  • academic literacy
  • sociocultural transition


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