Socio-cultural adaptation, academic adaptation and satisfaction of international higher degree research students in Australia

Baohua YU*, Ewan WRIGHT

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The number of international higher degree research students has grown at a significant rate in recent years, with Australia becoming a hub for attracting such students from around the world. However, research has identified that international higher degree research students often encounter a wide range of academic and socio-cultural challenges in adapting to their new environment, which can have a significant bearing on their levels of satisfaction with their studies. This paper outlines the findings of a mixed method study exploring the experiences and perceptions of international higher degree research students from five different countries in Australia. Findings revealed that the most important issues in terms of satisfaction were not directly related to academic studies. Instead, factors such as integration into the community, interacting with other students, relationships with supervisors, and the provision of adequate desk space were often given the greatest weight. Implications for how university policy can better support international doctoral students are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-64
Number of pages16
JournalTertiary Education and Management
Issue number1
Early online date30 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by the Endeavour Research Fellowship by Australian Government. The authors would like to express their deepest appreciation to Professor David Watkins, Professor Bob Adamson, Professor Huizhong Shen, and Professor Barbara Fawcett for their insightful suggestions on drafting and refining this research project, and Professor Chris Davison and Professor Colin Evers for their constructive advice on sharpening the research questions, methodology and data collection, Frankie Leung for his assistance with the programming help and data mining, the students from the University of New South Wales for their voluntary participation, and the Faculty of Education for the technical support for administrative assistance in running the study.

This work was supported by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australian Government, Endeavor Research Fellowship [ERF-PDF_1318_2009].


  • academic adaptation
  • international higher degree research students
  • socio-cultural adaptation
  • student satisfaction


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