Examining the Challenges Faced by International Women with Preschool Children Studying for a Postgraduate Built Environment Degree in the UK





Alumnae, built environment, international students, postgraduate, preschool children, sense of belonging, women


This article examines the academic experiences of five mid-career female international students who were parents of preschool children. These women were studying on a 1-year Built Environment master’s degree in the United Kingdom. We applied Tinto’s “sense of belonging” as a theoretical framework to interview women who were studying full time while caring for a preschool-age child or children. Results revealed stresses arising from balancing the academic demands of a 1-year full-time degree with childcare, compounded by a lack of appropriate support from the university. Although universities in general were viewed as offering a welcoming environment, this group of students often felt disappointed with their experience overall. Strategies for addressing identified barriers are proposed that contribute to widening existing university policies to address the specific needs of full-time international student parents.

Author Biographies

Maureen D. Rhoden, University of Greenwich, UK

MAUREEN RHODEN, EdD, PGCE, SEDA, MA, is an independent higher education (international students) and management research consultant. She was formally a senior lecturer/researcher at the University of Greenwich and has extensive experience teaching management-related subjects to undergraduates and postgraduates. She is an experienced supervisor and mentor of dissertations within the fields of management, and higher education (international students). She can be reached via email at maureenrhoden90@gmail.com

Francia Kinchington, Independent Consultant, UK

FRANCIA KINCHINGTON, MA Ed. Psych. SFHEA, MBPs, is an analyst, consultant, and editor with expertise in leadership development and change both internationally and in the United Kingdom. She was formally a principal lecturer at the University of Greenwich and is an experienced doctoral supervisor and examiner with 25 doctoral completions in education, psychology, and health. She has extensive European and international experience including teaching masters’ degrees in Sweden and the Netherlands; consulting for British Council school leadership (Middle East and Europe); and conducting EU and TEMPUS funded Projects in Europe and the Ukraine. She can be reached via email at francia.kinchington@gmail.com


Bierwiaczonek, K., & Waldzus, S. (2016). Socio-cultural factors as antecedents of cross-cultural adaptation in expatriates, International students, and migrants: A Review. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47(6), 767–817. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022116644526

Brooks, R. (2015). International students with dependent children: The reproduction of gender norms. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(2), 195–214. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2013.820128

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Flick, U. (2018). Managing quality in qualitative research (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications Ltd.

George Mwangi, C., Changamire, N., & Mosselson, J. (2019). An intersectional understanding of African international graduate students’ experiences in U.S. higher education. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 12(1), 52–64. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000076

Glass, C., Kociolek, E., Wongtrirat, R., Lynch, R., & Cong, S. (2015). Uneven Experiences: The impact of student-faculty interactions on international students’ sense of belonging. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 15.

Glass, C., & Westmont, C. (2014). Comparative effects of belongingness on the academic success and cross-cultural interactions of domestic and international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 106–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.04.004

Hartenberger, U., Lorenz, D., & Lützkendorf, T. (2013). A shared built environment professional identity through education and training. Building Research & Information, 41(1), 60–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2013.736202

Hausmann, L., Ye, F., Schofield, J. & Woods, R. (2009) Sense of belonging and persistence in White and African American first-year students, Research in Higher Education, 50(7), 649-669

Hendrickson, B., Rosen, D., & Aune, R. (2011). An analysis of friendship networks, social connectedness, homesickness, and satisfaction levels of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(3), 281–295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2010.08.001

Heng, T. (2018). Exploring the complex and non-linear evolution of Chinese international students’ experiences in US colleges. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(6), 1141–1155. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1474184

Hinton-Smith, T. (2012). Lone parents’ experiences as higher education students. NIACE.

Hinton-Smith, T. (2016). Negotiating the risk of debt-financed higher education: The experience of lone parent students. British Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 207–222. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3201

Hook, G. (2015). Performatively queer: Sole parent postgraduates in the Australian academy. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(4), 788–800. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2015.1051006

Hook, G. (2016). Geographies of emotion in university spaces: Sole parent postgraduate subjects negotiating ‘child-free’ educational boundaries. Emotion, Space and Society, 18, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2016.01.004

Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. (1997) Effects of college transition and perceptions of the campus racial climate on Latino college students' sense of belonging. Sociology of Education. 70(4), 324-345

Lindsay, T., & LeBlanc Gillum, N. (2018). Exploring single-mother college students’ perceptions of their college-related experiences and of campus services. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 66(3), 188–199. https://doi.org/10.1080/07377363.2018.1537657

Lockwood, K., Smith, K., & Karpenko-Seccombe, T. (2019). Rethinking stories of transnational mothering in the context of international study. Women’s Studies International Forum, 72, 17–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2018.11.006

Loveridge, J., Doyle, S., & Faamanatu-Eteuati, N. (2018). Journeys across educational and cultural borders: International postgraduate students with young children. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39(3), 333–347. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2017.1351867

Maestas, R., Vaquera, G. & Munoz Zehr, L. (2007) Factors impacting sense of belonging at a Hispanic-serving institution. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. 6(3), 237-256

Moreau, M., & Kerner, C. (2015). Care in academia: An exploration of student parents’ experiences. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(2), 215–233. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2013.814533

Murtagh, L. (2017). Invisible perceptions: Understanding the perceptions of university tutors towards trainee teachers with parental responsibilities. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 45(4), 383–398. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2017.1312280

Navarro-Astor E., Roman-Onsalo, M., & Infante-Perea, M. (2017) Women’s career development in the construction industry across 15 years: Main barriers. Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, 15(2), 199-221

OECD. (2016). Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators. OECD. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/eag-2016-en.pdf?expires=1571737469&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=5F4852B329D47B9C78D1798A79F3926F

OECD. (2019). Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators. OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en

Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Ramachandran, N. (2011). Enhancing international students’ experiences: An imperative agenda for universities in the UK. Journal of Research in International Education, 10(2), 201–220. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475240911413204

Roberts, P., Dunworth, K., & Boldy, D. (2018). Towards a reframing of student support: A case study approach. Higher Education, 75(1), 19–33. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0127-z

Strayhorn, T. (2018). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Swami, V., Arteche, A., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2010). Sociocultural adjustment among sojourning Malaysian students in Britain: A replication and path analytic extension. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45(1), 57–65. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-009-0042-4

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). The University of Chicago Press.

Tovar, E. & Simon, M. (2010) Factorial structure and invariance analysis of the sense of belonging scales. Measurement and Evaluation in Counselling and Development. 43(3), 199-217

Trice, A. (2004). Mixing It up: International graduate students’ social interactions with American students. Journal of College Student Development, 45(6), 671–687. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2004.0074

Walters, C., Charles, J., & Bingham, S. (2017). Impact of short-term study abroad experiences on transformative learning: A comparison of programs at 6 Weeks. Journal of Transformative Education, 15(2), 103–121. https://doi.org/10.1177/1541344616670034

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Williams, C., & Johnson, L. (2011). Why can’t we be friends?: Multicultural attitudes and friendships with international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(1), 41–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2010.11.001

Wright, C., & Schartner, A. (2013). ‘I can’t … I won’t?’ International students at the threshold of social interaction. Journal of Research in International Education, 12(2), 113–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475240913491055



How to Cite

Rhoden, M. D., & Kinchington, F. (2021). Examining the Challenges Faced by International Women with Preschool Children Studying for a Postgraduate Built Environment Degree in the UK. Journal of International Students, 11(4), 970–987. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i4.2398



Research Articles (English)