New Cross-Cultural Centre puts Spotlight on Diversity
Victoria University will launch a new internationally networked research centre (Wednesday 29 October) to lift the lid
on how New Zealand can make the most of its increasingly multicultural society.
Led by psychologist Professor Colleen Ward, the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research will study globalisation,
migration, and intercultural contact. Its research output will include high quality research, training, consultation and
policy advice in key areas including: understanding intergroup relations; cross-cultural transition; and culture bound
ideas about human behaviour.
"The rate at which so many countries are finding varied and multiple cultures in the same community creates an urgent
need to understand how they can coexist without cultural misunderstanding and the associated negative side effects,"
says Professor Ward.
"More than 100 million people now live outside their country of origin. The Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research
is a response to the need for sound theory and research to improve intercultural awareness and effective intercultural
communication," she says.
Professor Ward says that the Centre is international in its scope and outlook, but its focus is on the Asia Pacific and
the Pacific Rim areas.
The creation of the Centre builds on established excellence in the area of cross-cultural research at Victoria.
Professor Ward is a leading international psychologist in the area of cross-cultural study and published The Psychology
of Culture Shock in 2002.
With Lincoln University’s Dr Tracy Berno, Professor Ward has recently co-authored an Asia 2000 Foundation funded
project: Cross-cultural and Educational Adaptation of Asian Students in New Zealand. This key piece of research examines
Asian students’ expectations of studying in New Zealand. Her findings show that those expectations generally exceed the
students' post-arrival experiences.
The report is based on research conducted from 1997–2002, exploring the expectations, experiences, and adaptation of
Asian students in New Zealand.
The report also makes recommendations as to how students’ experiences in, and satisfaction with, New Zealand could be
“International education is a billion dollar industry in New Zealand realised through the 82,000 international students
who study and live here,” says Professor Ward.
Of these 82,000 students, approximately 31,000 are from China, 15,000 from South Korea and 13,000 from Japan.
“Given the scale, economic benefits and recent media interest in New Zealand-based Asian education, this research
provides a timely and interesting insight into the adaptation and satisfaction of these international students.”
The research primarily involved collecting data from Asian students nine weeks before leaving home to assess their
expectations, and then 14 and 26 weeks after arrival and study in New Zealand to hear of their experiences.
A range of comparative samples were also taken at Asian tertiary institutions and among New Zealand students studying
Key project findings include:
Student’s pre-entry expectations generally exceed their post-arrival experiences (those whose expectations are
‘under-met’ experience more depression and have more academic and social adjustment problems in their first three months
of study in NZ). All international students, especially Asian students, want more contact with New Zealand students. All
international students experienced some level of discrimination, especially Asian students. Factors associated with
successful adaptation were having: realistic expectations; language proficiency; more frequent and more satisfying
contact with New Zealanders; availability of social support; lower levels of stress and perceived discrimination; and
extravert, agreeable, open and conscientious and personality traits. Despite the presentation of some psychological and
social adjustment problems, overall, Asian students adjust well to being in New Zealand.
Professor Ward says the report presents a range of practical pre-entry and post-arrival recommendations to help
international students adapt to New Zealand, including:
Recruitment material presenting a realistic portrayal of student life in New Zealand. Pre-arrival cross-cultural
training or orientation programmes (both New Zealand culture and education specific) and stress and coping skills.
Raising English language and educational language proficiency levels. Buddy or mentoring programmes. Programmes for
staff and students addressing cultural differences and methods for communicating across cultures.
Professor Ward says Asia 2000 will now disseminate the report findings and it will be up to tertiary institutions to
"The Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research is a great example of applied research. It brings together scholars and
research from around the world to create a valuable community resource here in New Zealand," says Professor Stuart
McCutcheon, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University.
"The Centre's research findings will be invaluable to Victoria as we continually strive to create a learning environment
that suits our staff and student population – both domestic and international."
Already cross-cultural research carried out at Victoria has been used to guide the University's international marketing
campaigns to provide realistic information about studying in New Zealand. Victoria University won the New Zealand Export
Educator of the Year Award for 2003, primarily for its international marketing and pastoral care of students carried out
through Victoria International, the University's office for internationalisation. Victoria also has a successful scheme,
Kiwi Connections, which matches Victoria alumni and their families with international students to welcome and introduce
them to life in New Zealand.