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The impact of integration processes and xenophobia on postgraduate students in a South African higher education institution.

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Xenophobia is a world-wide phenomenon directed at those who are migrants in a country that is not their own. The term migrants, refers to people who have left their country of origin to seek a better lifestyle, with better employment prospects, in another country. Illegal migrants are not in possession of a work or study visa. Migrants who are legally allowed to enter a country that is not their own, are in possession of the necessary documentation. Many enter the host country for a short period of time, while others engage in the process of immigration. Whatever the migrant status may be, typically, migrants are othered and/or exploited in the labour market. Negative attitudes and treatment directed at migrants has seen many migrants feeling destitute. South Africa is a favoured destination for migrants from other countries in Africa. Incidences of xenophobia have been rife and often violent in nature. South African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have not been spared. This study explores the impact of integration processes and xenophobia on postgraduate students n a particular South African HEI. In particular, this study looks at how integration processes promoted in this HEI could possibly contribute to xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia manifests in attitudes, prejudices, and behaviours that exclude individuals based on the perception that they are outsiders (United Nations, 2006). This study explores interactions between African International Students (AIS) and local students. Xenophobic tendencies are displayed when AIS must integrate into HEIs. This study explores the lived experiences of postgraduate AIS in a HEI on the east coast of South Africa. Working within an interpretive paradigm, the responses of the purposively selected participants in semi-structured interviews, are analysed using the theoretical lens of Intergroup Perception Theory (Kawakami et al., 2017) and Intergroup Contact Theory (Allport, 1954). Instead of being treated with acceptance and hospitality, AIS face abuse, victimization, and hostility from local students. The Intergroup Perception Theory advocates that people who share similarities have pre-conceived ideas about people who are different from them. These pre-conceived ideas, frequently based on misconceptions can create conflict. In particular, AIS are othered by local students which impedes integration in the HEI. The findings show that these students are subjected to xenophobic attitudes. The integration processes offered by the HEI do not assist in dealing with these attitudes and perceptions. AIS are victimised by local students they are called derogatory names and they are discriminated against. There is no on-going monitoring taking place on the part of the HEI to ensure that the AIS are adequately supported. Keywords: African International Students, Higher Education Institutions, integration, migrants, xenophobia.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.