UCL School of Management

13 August 2021

Encouraging acceptance over assimilation for international students

Adult King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) standing amongst a large group of nearly fully grown chicks at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands.

Studying or working abroad is a truly enriching experience that develops knowledge, capabilities and cultural awareness for individuals and the organisational culture, but how can we encourage acceptance over assimilation for international students and workers? Writing for Business Graduates Association, Felix Danbold discusses the challenges international students and workers face, and the pressure to assimilate and conform to the majority group norms.

When joining university or starting a new job international students may feel pressure to conform to the expectations of new colleagues and employers as they fear by not doing so they could be ostracised. As organisations and business schools are increasingly recognising the value of a diverse workforce and student body, they are faced with the challenge of creating an inclusive and tolerant environment for minority groups. 

Felix explains that the majority group’s desire for minority groups to conform to the majority group’s norms stems from the concept of ‘prototyping’ and as the more dominant group, they set the norms for the behaviours and characteristics of those in that environment. International students, non-prototypicality can be a disadvantage and create an intolerance amongst majority group colleagues. Felix’s research demonstrates that prototypicality offers a sense of security and comfort, and when this is threatened by an increase in minority groups, it can incite an increased bias against them.

Felix continues to explain that to increase tolerance for international student’s, efforts to embrace inclusion will need to be driven and enacted by leadership. He suggests three tactics business schools and organisational leaders can employ to encourage acceptance of international students and workers within organisational culture; Giving international students and workers a platform and direct communication to SMT to speak up, Emphasising the importance of diversity in the organisation’s values and committing to achieve this goal, Preparing for some discomfort from the majority group and be ready to manage the situation so it does not impact the newcomer.

Read the full article

Last updated Tuesday, 24 August 2021