Sustaining benefits of higher education internationalisation through cross-cultural adaptation

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Educational Reciprocity and Adaptivity




School of Business and Law / The Centre for Work and Organisational Performance




Originally published as: Shafaei, A., Abd Razak, N., & Jamil, H. (2017). Sustaining benefits of higher education internationalisation through cross-cultural adaptation. In A. W. Ata, L. T. Tran, & I. Liyanage (Eds.), Educational reciprocity and adaptivity: International students and stakeholders (1st ed., Chapter 9). Original publication available here


Education mobility, similar to other transitions in life, might put international students at a stressful and challenging situation. It can also threaten sustainability of higher education mobility in countries moving towards higher education internationalisation (i.e. Malaysia). This signals the importance of cross-cultural adaptation in the context of higher education mobility. Identifying the key factors that could be the cause of tension and acculturative stress for international students during cross-cultural adaptation process and addressing them in time can benefit both international students and Malaysian higher education institutions. Therefore, this study was carried out to identify the most important factors related to international students’ cross-cultural adaptation and positive word of mouth in Malaysia, using Importance-Performance Matrix Analysis (IPMA). The data were collected from 1,098 international postgraduate students studying in six Malaysian public universities using questionnaires. Findings revealed that perceived complexity and perceived stereotype image play the most important roles in international students’ psychological and sociocultural adaptations. Additionally, perceived academic satisfaction, as well as psychological and sociocultural adaptations, are found to be the most important factors for stimulating positive word of mouth. This expanded understanding offers valuable insights to various stakeholders including higher education authorities, education policy makers, and university administrators on efficient resource allocation to ensure and sustain social, cultural, educational, and economic benefits of higher education internationalisation. It also contributes to minimizing the social, cultural, and academic tension arising from education mobility and enhancing resilience of international students in adapting to the different cultural environment while pursuing their study abroad.