Adjustment of International Students in a UK University: Reasons for Study Abroad and Subsequent Academic and Socio-cultural Experiences
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Research on international students contributes to our understanding of the internationalization of higher education. This study investigates the adjustment of first-year, full-time, postgraduate, international students at a southwestern UK university through a mixed methods research design. The main focus is on reasons for studying abroad, academic experience, and socio-cultural experience. Twenty-six students participated in the qualitative interviews. 250 students responded to a quantitative questionnaire survey. The results indicate that adjustment is a complex set of experiences and many factors may have an impact on it. The data suggest that value of overseas study, personal or family related factors, lack of opportunities at home, and financial or promotional reasons are main motivators driving students to study abroad. Postgraduate international students tend to pay more attention to academic than socio-cultural adjustment because personal agency and cultural identity operate more explicitly in socio-cultural than academic adjustment. Additionally, the data reveal that both acculturation and hybridization account for the processes that inform students’ socio-cultural adjustment. For theories explaining the findings regarding reasons for studying abroad, the push-pull model appears to be more applicable than the Theory of Planned Behavior, whereas Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is found to be less relevant because international postgraduate students tend to have special characteristics, which differ from those of host country students, and their satisfaction perceptions regarding different needs are guided by various cultural factors. This study also suggests that the U-curve hypothesis is not supported by the research data, as methodological issues, different internal and external factors, cultural expectations, individual responses or attitudes, and technological and world development have the potential to impact on adjustment. This research adds to theoretical knowledge associated with the adjustment of international students and, in practical terms, increases our current knowledge regarding student recruitment and international student support services.
PhD in Education