Diversity and demographic heterogeneity of Australian nursing students: a closer look
Background: In the last decade, there has been a rapid growth of international students undertaking nursing studies in Australian universities. At the same time, nursing courses continue to attract local students from a diversity of backgrounds. Aim: The aim of this study is to examine first year nursing students by enrolment classification and country of birth: i) international; ii) local, overseas-born; and iii) local, Australian-born student, and demographic differences of academic performance at the 12-month follow-up. Methods: A prospective, correlational design was used to identify nursing student characteristics as predictors of academic performance in a large university in the western region of Sydney. Results: Of the 806 students enrolled in the course, 540 (67%) completed the survey and consented to data linkage. Fifty-six per cent of the 540 participants were born overseas, of which 38% were local and 18% were international students. Local, overseas-born students originated from 55 different countries, in contrast to international students who were representative of only 16 different countries. International students were younger, spent less time in paid work and were more likely to have a close friend in the same course. Although age was positively related to academic performance, local, overseas-born and international enrolment classifications, and hours in paid work during semester were negatively associated to academic performance. Conclusion: This study has taken a closer look at an important issue that requires further examination, given that international and local, overseas-born students were two distinctive groups. Although both groups underperformed academically compared with Australian-born students, the differences in characteristics between local, overseas-born students and international students suggest that these two student groups are likely to experience different challenges during their nursing studies in Australia.