Identity and Adaptation of Thai PhD Students in the UK

Nasatorn Witayarat from the University of Glasgow, in her poster presentation, analyses experiences of Thai PhD students adapting to studying in the UK.

Doing a PhD can be fraught with unanticipated social, intellectual and emotional challenges. The nature of doctoral programmes can often be characterised by a loosely fixed research trajectory, a lack of formal classroom interaction and a focus on a topic area to be adhered to for a minimum period of three years. These challenges of intellectual venture tend to increase for international PhD students. Being away from home for many years, dealing with language difficulties and coming from a different culture can place the student at an increased risk of social isolation. Adjusting to a new learning environment which requires the rapid acquisition of new professional skills such as critical thinking and subject specific writing conventions also poses a challenge to the international student. Living in a foreign country raises awareness of students’ cultural identity. This study aims to focus on the perception of Thai students’ cultural identity and how this influences their personal and social adaptation and their academic acculturation. It is proposed that how well the student adapts to these challenges will impact on the perceived success of their transition from the start of their journey until completion of their degrees. Successful adaptation will be explored in terms of impact on cultural identity, academic proficiency, and social interaction. Underpinned by Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1991), the study will investigate how the adaptation of international Thai PhD students in a different cultural environment connects with the transition of their PhD journey—from member in their own countries to newcomer in the UK and to their new academic institution. The study is potentially beneficial to Thai PhD and/or postgraduate students who are planning to pursue their higher degrees in the UK, the British Council, scholarship funders, and any other agencies who encourage and help Thai students prepare for PhD education in the UK.


Hofstede, G., 1991. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. London: McGraw-Hill.


nasatorn-witayaratNasatorn Witayarat received her Master of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a PhD candidate at School of Education, the University of Glasgow, UK.



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