Ways of becoming : South Asian students in an Australian postgraduate environment

Islam, Waliul (2009) Ways of becoming : South Asian students in an Australian postgraduate environment. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The formation of student diasporas in western universities is a manifestation of the globalization and internationalization of higher education, and has necessitated studies about international students’ adaptation to such universities. Statistics of the last decade show that there has been a significant flow of international students to Australian universities, and a large proportion of this student cohort comes from South East Asian and South Asian countries. Whilst there has been a good deal of research on international students from South East and Far East Asia, who share a Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC) background, there are relatively very few studies on South Asian students, particularly postgraduate students from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (defined as South Asian for this study). This qualitative study about the adaptation experiences of postgraduate coursework students from South Asian countries fills some of the gap that exists in the body of literature about international students. The study, conducted at a cross-sectoral Australian university in Melbourne, referred to with the pseudonym Southern University (SU), has utilised a longitudinal qualitative approach to explore from an ‘emic’ perspective the adaptation experiences of ten postgraduate coursework students from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The students were studying in four faculties at SU, and participated in in-depth interviews and focus group discussions over their first two semesters. The study considers the students’ adjustment process in the Australian academic landscape from their pre-arrival expectations to their settlement after two semesters, and is structured to consider three phases of their experiences – initial, transitional and endpoint – in negotiating new academic norms and genres, including spoken communication. The study identifies a number of dimensions along which differences are evident in the students’ approaches and strategies in adjusting to their studies and lives as postgraduates. In academic adjustment, all the postgraduates demonstrated incremental progress which was marked by varying levels of perceptual and attitudinal changes in understanding the new academic culture. Whilst the students shared a common goal of undertaking an Australian postgraduate degree to enhance their employment prospects, two broad types of strategists emerged: initiators of self-development and system compliers. The study also notes that the postgraduates, through their physical presence in Australia and becoming qualified with a western education, negotiated new, hybrid and empowered identities for themselves. In its limited exploration about the students’ social acculturation, the study notes that some of them followed a selective integrative approach while others adopted assimilatory process, and they all indicated a hybrid state of acculturation to Australian culture. The study also uncovers that, besides their academic goals, many of the postgraduates had a largely hidden agenda of long term settlement in Australia.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/15244
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1608 Sociology
Keywords International students, Australia, postgraduate students, South East Asia, social acculturation, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
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