Mexican Postgraduate Students’ Expectations and Perception of UK Academic System: Cultural Differences During the Early Weeks

Elizabeth Margarita Hernández López (1)
(1) Department of Modern Languages, University of Guadalajara, Mexico , Mexico


Based on Hofstede’s (1986) 4-D model of cultural differences, this article explores the expectations for institutional support as well as the initial perception of the educational system of a group of Mexican postgraduate students in a British university. The data presented here derive from a doctoral case study. They involve a qualitative questionnaire, focus groups, and individual interviews with ten participants enrolled for the 2016-2017 academic year. Despite participants’ ultimate goal of a degree but in accordance with the core values of a collectivist society, this study found pre-departure concerns were for the institutional provision of activities to socialize and feel connected with the host environment. Upon arrival, different extents of dealing with uncertainty had an affective impact on adaptation of participants, who longed for more structure. Based on a comparison between degrees of power distance, individualism and uncertainty avoidance features, participants’ accounts – in accordance with Paulo Freire’s liberating pedagogy – showed satisfaction for the student-centered approach rendered.

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Bhattacharya, S. (2019). Education as empowerment: Review of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Journal of Political Science Education, 3: 403-406. DOI:

Braun, V. & V. Clarke (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2): 77-101. DOI:

Cohen, L., L. Manion & K. Morrison (2011). Research Methods in Education: 7th Ed. Routledge.

Creswell, J.W. (2014). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (4th Ed.). Pearson Education.

Delgado-Romero, A. & S. Sanabria (2007). Counseling international students from Latin America and the Caribbean. In H. Singaravelu & M. Pope (eds.), A Handbook for Counseling International Students in the United States (150-172). American Counselling Association.

Devlin, M. (1996). Older and wiser? A comparison of the learning and study strategies of mature age and younger teacher education students. Higher Education Research and Development, 15(1): 51-60. DOI:

Foley, A.G. (2013). The Role of International School Counselors in US College Recruitment Strategy [PhD thesis]. University of Delaware. Accessed 6 July 2022 at

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogía del oprimido ("Pedagogy of the oppressed"). Siglo XXI Editores, S.A. de C.V.

Furnham, A. (1993). Communicating in foreign lands: The cause, consequences, and cures of culture shock. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 6(1): 91-109. DOI:

Furnham, A. & S. Bochner (1982). Social difficulty in a foreign culture: An empirical analysis of culture shock. In S. Bochner (ed.), Cultures in Contact: Studies in Cross-cultural Interaction 1 (161-198). Pergamon Press. DOI:

Guba, E. (1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. ECTJ, 29(2): 75-91. DOI:

Guenther, K.M. (2009). The politics of names: Rethinking the methodological and ethical significance of naming people, organizations, and places. Qualitative Research, 9(4): 411-421. DOI:

Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond Culture. Anchor.

Hassanien, A. & A. Barber (2008). An evaluation of student induction in higher education. International Journal of Management Education, 6(3): 35-43. DOI:

Hofstede, G. (1986). Cultural differences in teaching and learning. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10(3): 301-320. DOI:

Hofstede Insights (n.d.). Country Comparison. Accessed 6 July 2022 from,the-uk/.

Lofland, J. (2006). Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis (4th Ed.). Wadsworth.

Maviglia, D. (2019). The intercultural perspective in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Studi sulla Formazione / Open Journal of Education, 22(2): 387-395. Accessed 7 July 2022 from

McCune, V., J. Hounsell, H. Christie, V.E. Cree & L. Tett (2010). Mature and younger students' reasons for making the transition from further education into higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(6): 691-702. DOI:

Mortimer, M. & S. McLaughlin (2006). Organisation of registration week. In Supporting Students: Early Induction (13-23). University of Ulster.

Newcomer, K.E., H.P. Hatry & J.S. Wholey (2015). Conducting semi-structured interviews. In K.E. Newcomer, H.P. Hatrey & J.S. Wholey (eds.), Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation (492-505). Wiley Online. DOI:

OECD (2014). Education at a glance: OECD indicators. OECD iLibrary. DOI:

Olmeda, G. J., & Luque, D. (2020). Relecturas de Paulo Freire en el siglo XXI. Cincuenta años de Pedagogía del Oprimido. Educación XX1, 23(2): 145-164. Accessed 7 July 2022 from DOI:

Richardson, J.T. (1994). Mature students in higher education: I. A literature survey on approaches to studying. Studies in Higher Education, 19(3), 309-325. DOI:

Roberts, P. & K. Dunworth (2012). Staff and student perceptions of support services for international students in higher education: A case study. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(5): 517-528. DOI:

Schartner, A. (2014). Cross-cultural Transition in Higher Education: The Academic, Psychological, and Sociocultural Adjustment and Adaptation of International Postgraduate Students at a British University [PhD thesis]. University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Tanner, G.G. (2013). The Graduate Experience of Mexican International Students in US Doctoral Programs [PhD thesis]. Michigan State University. Accessed 7 July 2022 at

Taylor, G. & N. Ali (2017). Learning and living overseas: Exploring factors that influence meaningful learning and assimilation: How international students adjust to studying in the UK from a socio-cultural perspective. Education Sciences, 7(1), 35. DOI:

Thomas, G. (2016). How to Do Your Case Study. SAGE.

Urban, E.L., M.P. Orbe, N.A. Tavares & W. Alvarez (2010). Exploration of Dominican international students' experiences. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47(2): 233-250. DOI:

Ward, C., S. Bochner & A. Furnham (2001). The Psychology of Culture Shock. Routledge.

Wilcox, P., S. Winn & M. Fyvie-Gauld (2005). “It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people”: The role of social support in the first-year experience of higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(6): 707-722. DOI:

Zhang, J. & P. Goodson (2011). Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2): 139-162. DOI:


Elizabeth Margarita Hernández López (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Elizabeth Margarita Hernández López, Department of Modern Languages, University of Guadalajara, Mexico

Elizabeth M. Hernandez-Lopez, PhD, is a research lecturer in the department of modern languages at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. She undertook a PhD at the University of Southampton, UK, writing on the adaptation experience of international students of Latin American origin to life in the UK. Elizabeth earned her MA in Intercultural Communication from the University of Maryland in the United States. Her major research interests lie in the area of intercultural mediation, international mobility, organizational practices and the processes of orientation, culture shock, and adaptation.

López, E. M. H. (2022). Mexican Postgraduate Students’ Expectations and Perception of UK Academic System: Cultural Differences During the Early Weeks. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 22(1), 81–91.

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_
  • Abstract 634
  • Download PDF 399