An investigation into the Experiences of international Muslim students in an Irish university

Gamze Üstündağ, Buse (2017) An investigation into the Experiences of international Muslim students in an Irish university.


Ireland has transformed from being a country of emigration to a country of immigration within the past two decades. The transformation is evident in Irish higher education which currently recruits over one hundred thousand international students from across the globe. Although Muslim immigration into Ireland began with international students who came to study in Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in 1950s, research on Muslim students, particularly international, in Irish higher education has largely been neglected to date. Consequently, this project explores the experiences of international Muslim students (IMS) in an Irish university, asks whether a religious identity is a pertinent factor in intercultural contact, and investigates internationalisation of higher education in Ireland from the perspective of IMS.

The study used a constructive grounded theory approach within an interpretative framework. 23 semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with IMS from undergraduate and Master’s programmes in Dublin City University (DCU) Glasnevin Campus, which were audio-taped and transcribed. A three-stage analysis was employed in line with constructivist grounded theory: initial coding, focused coding, axial & theoretical coding. NVivo was used to help organise the data during the rigorous analysis process.

The findings reveal that IMS’ experiences on campus are mainly built on three interdependent axes: identity, environment and contact. Particularly within the category identity, religion is identified as a major construct reinforcing a transnational Muslim identity and unity among Muslim students with different national and cultural backgrounds. DCU (Glasnevin) emerges as a multicultural campus in which diversity is successfully accommodated. However, a lack of intercultural contact from the perspective of IMS persists on campus perpetuated by factors such as culture distance, homophily, institutional completeness and students’ cultural capital. The study highlights the need for an effective intercultural policy and practice instead of multicultural in Irish HEIs, to the advantage of both the international and host students.

View Item