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The cultural and academic experiences of doctoral students from the Indian subcontinent and East Asia studying at Australian universities

posted on 2023-08-03, 01:50 authored by Yasir LatifYasir Latif

Doctoral students from the Indian subcontinent and East Asia face many cultural and academic challenges while studying at Australian universities. These challenges include learning to deal with cultural differences, developing a sense of belonging, and becoming familiar with new (western) approaches to learning. Failure and withdrawal rates for these students are high. This thesis investigates the cultural and academic experiences of doctoral students from the Indian subcontinent and East Asia studying at Australian universities. It focuses on two key determinants, sense of belonging and culturally appropriate learning strategies, employed by these students to determine their perceptions of progress. The research employs a quantitative-qualitative mixed methodology. The literature review facilitated the identification of these determinants, and subsequently, a scale was built based on the literature and previously developed questionnaires that had been delivered to international students. Expert opinions from five university professors and ten doctoral students were also sought and obtained to ensure face and content validity. After establishing validity, the scale was advertised on Facebook and LinkedIn groups commonly associated with doctoral students from the Indian subcontinent and East Asia. The data were analysed using SPSS 24 and AMOS24 software to perform exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, to identify key elements of sense of belonging and culturally appropriate learning strategies. The scale also passed through convergent and discriminant validity to ensure the items of each construct actually measured that construct whilst also remaining differentiated from each other.

Sense of belonging has two constructs including cultural membership and cultural integration. Cultural appropriate learning strategies have four constructs, namely scientific, artistic, adaptive, and participative learning strategies. Academic progress and research progress were also identified as constructs of perception of progress. Statistical techniques such as correlation and regression were applied to survey data related to the constructs, sense of belonging, culturally appropriate learning strategies and perception of progress. The results of the quantitative data analysis indicated that the constructs such as cultural membership and cultural integration (sense of belonging) as well as scientific and participative learning strategies, all influence the perception of progress among Indian subcontinent and East Asian doctoral students studying at Australian universities. The quantitative data analysis helped to frame the questions for the qualitative study.

The findings suggest that cultural membership and cultural integration are important dimensions that support the perceptions of progress among these doctoral students. Such dimensions allow research students to follow culturally acceptable learning strategies adopted by the host culture. The research also suggests that cultural membership assists these students to perceive their academic progress in positive ways. The research concludes that elements of belongingness, such as cultural membership and cultural integration, as well as the elements of culturally appropriate learning strategies including scientific learning strategies and participative learning strategies, play a key role in the student’s perception of progress. In the final section of the thesis, a qualitative study focusing on Pakistani doctoral students is presented. It is argued that attaining a sense of belonging and adopting culturally appropriate learning strategies help these students to perceive cultural differences as opportunities rather than challenges in their journey to obtain a doctoral degree in Australia.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Methodology -- Chapter 4. Findings: Converting Challenges into Opportunities -- Chapter 5. Conclusion -- References


Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Neil Harrison

Additional Supervisor 1

Hye-Eun Chu


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197 pages