The UK has one of the best educational universities on their lands. Thus, it is understandable that there is a huge influx of international students in various UK educational institutions. It is estimated that around 18% of the student studying higher education in the UK are from other countries. OECD Statistics in 2013 indicated that the UK attracts 13% of international students globally, which is a pretty large number. (OECD, 2013) The international students flocking the numerous institutes in the UK bring a large number of revenues to the economy. The report of ‘Oxford Economics for Universities UK studies’ report stated that the financial gain from International students to the UK economy is recorded at 25.8 Billion Pounds. (Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan, 2017) However, the cultural aspect of the countries these students come from is very different from the UK, in terms of language, culture, educational, social, and political systems. The research undertaken involves 14 participants from the Brighton Foundation Programme University and studies their experiences of adapting to the UK cultural and academic environment.

Purpose and the research question

The current study aims to understand the cross-cultural academic adaptation process between Middle Eastern and Far Eastern students in UK universities. The site chosen is Brighton Foundation Programme University wherein 14 international students which 8 belongs to Asian countries and 6 from Middle East countries. The primary research questions are:

1)    What has the hardest part of the academic adaptation process?

2)    What has been the biggest academic difference between the UK and your country?

3)    What has been the smallest academic difference between the UK and your country?

4)    What do you think helps in the academic adaptation process

These questions emphasizes on the experiences international undergraduate students go through, which facilitates a better understanding of the issues the international students face while making their transitional experience.


The methodology the present study used was the mixed-method approach and used a descriptive survey method to understand the relationship between the elements of the research question and the academic adaptation process. The mixed approach comprising the elements of both quantitative as a well qualitative research design is apt for getting a meaningful and core understanding of the selected international undergraduate students’ academic adaptation process.

With the help of the criterion sampling method an initial sample of 14 undergraduate students from Middle East and Far Asian countries were selected within the Brighton Foundation Programme University. The criterion sampling method was used in this research as this method chooses individuals with specific experiences that facilitate this narrative study. (Creswell, 2009) The main criteria for participant selection were that they belonged to either the Middle East or Asian countries, enrolled in a four-year degree program of the university, and have completed at least the first year at the university. These criteria confirmed the similar background of the participants.

The primary data was collected through one-on-one interviews comprising the research questions along with a ranking scale question that asked the students to rank on a scale of scale one to ten stating their opinion about how hard has the academic adaptation process been in the UK. The interview method is a tried and tested formula for narrative research in human science and permits the investigator to spend quality time with the participants to get a deep insight into their life experiences. (Riessman, 2008) The questionnaire intends to obtain narrative inquiry as to the experiences they went through while adapting to the cultural and academic environment of the UK University. The inclusion of narrative inquiry is deemed for the present study as this approach is considered an important medium to understand an individual’s experience in certain settings and provides meaning to human interpretation. (Andrews, Squire and Tamboukou, 2013)


The findings of this study are limited to the students interviewed on the Brighton Foundation Programme University campus. It cannot be generalized to the entire population of international students in UK universities. The aim of this study was to study a small sample of Middle East and Far Asian students in a particular university and understand their experiences in adapting to the UK culture and academic environment. Thus, the findings cannot be applied to other students studying in other institutions or countries.


The findings of the study revealed some key themes in the cultural differences between international students and that of the UK. The cross-cultural difference was evident in the findings, as well as the difficulty in coping with the language barrier. Middle East and Asian countries are collectivist societies as compared to the individualist society of the UK. (Geert-hofstede.com, 2017) This aspect is reflected in the findings and claimed the students belonging to this collectivist culture find themselves isolated and home sick in the UK. The majority of the participants responded that they find it difficult to adjust in team projects as their peers from western culture tend to think of their own self-interest than of the group interest as a whole. The other major difference they found in the UK as compared to their home country was the language barrier, which made the academic adaptation process difficult. The difference in the eating habits of the different cultures made things harder for them to adjust to this new environment. The easiest part these students found to adapt to this new setup was bonding with the students from their own country. As of 2014-15, 27,520 students were studying in the UK from the Middle East, while Asian students were 192,540. (Top Universities, 2017) The other students from their home country enable them to find their own small community within the campus.


International students are faced with a wide range of cultural issues while trying to adapt to UK universities. The study presented the findings from the study of 14 Middle East and Asian students studying at Brighton Foundation Programme University. They admitted to having difficulty coping with the social expectations and norms as applicable in UK culture, which were starkly contrasting to their own country’s rules. These findings were in sync with the cultural dimensions by Geert Hofstede as applicable between different countries. (Hofstede, 2011) A mixed method approach was used with more emphasis given to the qualitative narrative inquiry method. The research design with criterion sampling method suited the purpose of the study undertaken. The complicated cross-cultural academic adaptation mandates the understanding of the experiences the participant goes through as narrated by them through their personal stories.




Andrews, M., Squire, C. and Tamboukou, M. (2013). Doing narrative research. 1st ed. Los Angeles, California: SAGE.

Geert-hofstede.com. (2017). China - Geert Hofstede. [online]

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan, 2017. UK to promote International education ....... [Online]
Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1).

OECD, 2013. Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, s.l.: OECD Publishing.

Riessman, C. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. 1st ed. Los Angeles, USA: Sage Publ.

 Top Universities. (2017). Middle Eastern Students Abroad: In Numbers. [online]




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