A segue in Thai cultural identity: Impressions of international students’ doctoral experience in the UK and their re-adaptation upon return to their home country

Witayarat, Nasatorn (2020) A segue in Thai cultural identity: Impressions of international students’ doctoral experience in the UK and their re-adaptation upon return to their home country. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


With the continuing high number of international PhD students in the UK, more research studies are arguably necessary not only to investigate in-depth their overall doctoral journey but also, to gain a sound appreciation of their experiences of returning to their home country after completing a challenging doctoral study abroad. This original body of work specifically focuses on Thai international PhD students and aims to explore the impact of Thai cultural identity on academic acculturation and the psychosocial adaptation that they experienced while in the UK and subsequently, how such an evolved identity during the PhD period then necessitated a re-adaptation to the Thai context upon their return. In elucidating the complexity involved in the appreciation of Thai students’ doctoral sojourn and beyond, a combination of Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Cultures, transnationalism and the threshold concept are selected as theoretical frameworks to guide the entire investigation.

The empirical basis for the body of work comprises two independent but intertwined qualitative studies involving 15 Thai international PhD students in the UK and 15 Thai international PhD returnees to Thailand. Photo-elicitation techniques, which involve employing photographs in a research interview, were employed in the two studies to: 1) facilitate in-depth interpretative discussions of abstract and metaphorical concepts; 2) strengthen and enhance the trustworthiness of findings. Whereas Study 1 employed Thematic Analysis in the data analysis, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which aims to produce an account of participants’ lived experience, was utilised for Study 2. In Study 1, participants’ accounts reflected the powerful impact of Thai cultural identity, e.g. hierarchy and collectivism, which were conveyed through their interactions with their supervisors, their fellow doctoral students – Thai and international students. Interestingly, their entire learning and living experiences in the UK contributed to an evolved sense of Thai cultural identity, which consequently posed a challenge to them when they returned to Thailand. Study 1 also highlights the additional layers of challenges unique to Thai students with respect to meeting PhD standards and requirements in the UK. Likewise, it can be argued that such experiences gave them ample opportunities, e.g. exposure to radically different cultures, which led to a better understanding of people from different cultural backgrounds and offered practical and financial benefits including potential for career advancement. The conclusion drawn from Study 1 suggests that adaptation for Thai PhD students, by default, is an ongoing process as part of Thai PhD students living and studying in the host country due to a number of contrasting differences resulting from both societal and academic cultures. Study 2 demonstrates that the impact of Thai international PhD students abroad, particularly on their identity, has after-effect consequences upon their return to their home country. Taken together, there is evidence to suggest via the findings of studies 1 and 2 that this particular cohort’s doctoral experiences of studying in the UK and returning to Thailand were often multi-dimensional and an altogether complex journey.

Overall, this original body of work contributes to knowledge by offering deeper insights into: 1) conceptual models in relation to the impact of Thai cultural identity on their academic acculturation and the psychosocial adaptation as PhD students in the UK and, in turn, the experiences of their re-adaptation upon their return to Thailand; 2) greater understanding particularly of the under-explored research on international PhD students’ experiences following return to the home country leading to in-depth insight characterising complementary journeys of Thai international PhD students from their doctoral studies in the UK to their return to Thailand. The research findings arguably indicate that the experiences of Thai international PhD students comprise not only their adaptation when they come to live and study in the UK but also their re-adaptation to the Thai context when they return to Thailand.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Thai cultural identity, hierarchy, collectivism, intercultural education, academic acculturation, visual method, Thai international PhD students, Thai international PhD returnees.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Elliot, Dr. Dely
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 28 February 2023
Depositing User: Miss Nasatorn Witayarat
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-80290
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2020 12:20
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2020 12:20
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/80290

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item