40% of international students have experienced racism

Some 40% of respondents to the ICOS study said they had either directly experienced racism or witnessed it, with only 5% then reporting it.
40% of international students have experienced racism

Equality activist Laura Harmon. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A study by the Irish Council of International Students (ICOS) has found that four out of 10 international students studying in Ireland have experienced racism, but very few report it.

Some 40% of respondents to the study said they had either directly experienced racism or witnessed it, with only 5% then reporting it.

Speaking to The Echo, Laura Harmon, executive director of ICOS, said it was troubling that so few students would report their experiences of racism.

“Some of the reasons for not reporting it are that they didn’t trust the authorities, or they didn’t feel that they’d be taken seriously, or they didn’t know how to report it.

Protocols and policies need to be put in place across all higher education institutions, she said, so that when these issues do arise, students know there’s a designated person on campus that they can report racist incidents. The report also found that 63% of English language students and 28% of international students in higher education, are sharing a room with at least one other person.

Ms Harmon said overcrowding is an issue, and a symptom of the wider housing crisis, but also added that current legislation on overcrowding dates back to 1966 and needs to be updated. Noting that an increase in mental health issues was something which affected all students during the pandemic, Ms Harmon said 80% of respondents to the survey said that their mental health had suffered more because of the pandemic.

Ms Harmon, a UCC graduate and a native of Ballyvourney, said the ICOS report was “not all doom and gloom”, noting that it contained many positive accounts of the quality of education in Ireland.

“Despite some of the concerns raised, half of the respondents said that, over-all, their experience studying here was positive, so I think that’s encouraging and we are still a very attractive destination for international students.”

Citing UCC’s race equality committee as a positive development, Ms Harmon said it was important for higher education institutions to organise information sessions for international students, showing students how to report racism.

Ms Harmon said that government needed to look seriously at purpose-built student accommodation, and to invest further in mental health supports.

“I think as well there needs to be more diversity in terms of staff in general on our campuses, to reflect our student population.”

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