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International students of Speech and Language Therapy in the UK: do we meet their needs?

Marshall, Julie and Goldbart, Juliet and Evans, Ruth (2004) International students of Speech and Language Therapy in the UK: do we meet their needs? International journal of language and communication disorders, 39 (2). pp. 269-284. ISSN 1368-2822

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Abstract

Background: Informal evidence suggests that many Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) students from outside of the UK and/or Republic of Ireland who come to the UK either do not return to their home country on qualification or do not practise as SLTs in the public sector. Many factors may contribute to this situation. Concern that it may result in part from a poor match between UK SLT education and the demands of the role in other countries led the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) to fund a study of international SLT students' experiences of UK qualifying courses. Aims: To discover and describe the experiences, views and expectations of current and past international students studying SLT in the UK and past international students' experiences, views and expectations of practising as SLTS, both inside and outside the UK. To consider the implications of the findings for (1) international students planning to work as SLTs; (2) UK SLT students planning to practise outside the UK; and (3) all those involved in SLT education: educational institutions; supervising SLTs; RCSLT. Methods & Procedures: The study involved distributing 166 postal questionnaires (some directly to (ex)students and some to their Higher Education Institutes, or HEIs) and carrying out 23 interviews, with both current students and those qualifying since May 1994. Quantitative analysis was carried out using SPSS using descriptive statistics. Qualitative analysis used content and thematic analyses. Outcomes & Results: Seventy-one questionnaires were received from current and past students, representing a minimum response rate of 43%. (It was not possible to verify exactly how many questionnaires were distributed by HEIs.) The results describe the diverse range of respondents' experiences of studying and working in the UK, their views of working in their home countries and the UK, and their suggestions about strategies that might be adopted to support them further. The results revealed that students come from a wide diversity of countries, with resulting differences in their experiences. However, there were some commonalities in the perceived advantages and disadvantages of working at home and in the UK. Conclusions: The suggestions for change included practical ideas for change both before and after qualification as an SLT. These included courses about the organization of health, education and social services in the UK, adaptations of course delivery and course work to include cross-cultural/linguistic work and 'home-based' projects. Implications of the findings and strategies for home as well as international SLT students are discussed.

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