“Everything is so different...”

African students’ voices on the challenges of doing a PhD at a Portuguese university





challenges, doctoral education, international doctoral students, African Portuguese-Speaking countries, Portuguese higher education


In the scope of higher education internationalisation, Portuguese universities have been receiving an increasing number of students from Portuguese-Speaking countries, namely African countries, at the level of PhD studies. As highlighted in research, pursuing a PhD in an overseas context entails critical challenges for students, supervisors and higher education institutions. Against this background, this paper reports on the challenges faced by international African students attending a PhD programme in Education at a Portuguese university. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven students and results from thematic analysis show that the main challenges relate to language, integration into a different pedagogical/academic culture, adaptation to a different research culture, loneliness/homesickness and financial difficulties. Implications of findings for institutional policy and practice are put forward.

Author Biography

Susana Pinto, University of Aveiro, Portugal

SUSANA PINTO, PhD in Didactics and Teacher Education, is a researcher at the Research Centre Didactics and Technology in the Education of Trainers (CIDTFF) of the University of Aveiro, Portugal. She is the coordinator of the Language Education Laboratory (LabELing). Her main research interests are supervision and research across cultures, language policies for education and research in higher education, and development of plurilingual and intercultural competences in higher education. She can be reached via email at spinto@ua.pt.


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How to Cite

Pinto, S. (2021). “Everything is so different.”: African students’ voices on the challenges of doing a PhD at a Portuguese university . Journal of International Students, 11(4), 895–913. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i4.2702



Research Articles (English)