From the heart of Islam to an Irish campus: a critical analysis of twelve male Saudi Arabian students’ experiences on the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme

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Walsh Kiely, Helena
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University College Cork
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This doctoral study interprets the lived experience of Saudi Arabian students on the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme (KASP) over a period of five years. The study interprets the students’ experiences while they are physically distanced from the temporal-cultural forces which define a strongly collectivist identity. They are also physically distanced from the geo-political might of Saudi Arabia and from Sharīʿah law. The purpose of the research is to investigate a phenomenon of identity change. No other study deals with the phenomenology of the KASP experience. Existing research is largely qualitative, but rarely goes beyond evaluating the programme through a pedagogical or economic lens. There is also no available data on the reflexive experience of lecturers on KASP. The study has added significance in that it is the first and only research on KASP anywhere in Ireland, despite Ireland’s participation in the programme. The methods used are ethnographic, using art-based research in the form of photo-elicitation. Data is gathered through semi-structured interviews, emailed questionnaires, and purposeful journaling. The theoretical framework defines the key concepts, and the study is strongly influenced throughout by the philosophical tenets of interpretative phenomenological analysis where interpreting both my own and the students’ transformative journeys is at the centre of the humanistic level of this research. Patterns and themes in the data are identified using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis, where six findings measure the impact of the scholarship programme on the students. Findings on the students’ self-identification are separated into two areas: firstly, consciously maintaining the structural functional assumption of how Saudi society ‘is’ and, secondly, new ideas and values stimulated by critical consciousness. Analysis of the findings on the efficacy of the programme’s acculturation strategy, combined with the reflexive analysis, will call for a raised awareness of all student mobility programmes in Ireland, the impact of student mobility on identity, and the role campuses play in the internationalisation of education.
Saudi Arabia , Ireland , King Abdullah Scholarship Programme , Phenomenology , Reflexivity , Internationalisation , Acculturation , Adentity , Identity , Global citizenship
Walsh Kiely, H. 2022. From the heart of Islam to an Irish campus: a critical analysis of twelve male Saudi Arabian students’ experiences on the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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