The impact of culture on learning: exploring student perceptions

Prem Ramburuth (Australian Business School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Massimiliano Tani (Department of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Multicultural Education & Technology Journal

ISSN: 1750-497X

Publication date: 21 August 2009



The purpose of this paper is to analyse similarities and differences in perceptions of learning among students from diverse cultural backgrounds, using the responses of 2,200 undergraduate students surveyed at an Australian University.


A survey questionnaire is designed to elicit perceptions about the impact of prior learning, competence in language and communication, quality of student‐staff relations and cultural interactions, on student learning. It draws from disciplines including cognitive psychology, social sciences, higher education and economics. The questionnaire is implemented to approximately 2,200 undergraduate students at one of the Australia's largest and most diverse universities. The results are analysed through quantitative techniques.


There are statistically significant differences between the experiences and learning perceptions of students born in Australia, Asian countries and elsewhere. Differences emerge in prior learning and preparation before entry into university, self‐confidence and the ability to participate in classroom discussions, interacting with peers, and engaging with teaching staff from similar and different language backgrounds.

Research limitations/implications

The quantitative approach to exploring the student experience provides data across a broad spectrum of issues but does not probe into causal factors. A mixed method approach provides such information.

Practical implications

Students from diverse backgrounds need to be provided with appropriate institutional and academic support to acculturate to their new learning and language environments.


The paper provides valuable insights into the learning experiences of students from diverse backgrounds, an increasingly important area as the number of students seeking higher education across boarders and cultures continues to rise.



Prem Ramburuth and Massimiliano Tani (2009) "The impact of culture on learning: exploring student perceptions", Multicultural Education & Technology Journal, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 182-195

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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