Mental health and wellbeing of international doctoral students in the UK: An investigation of supervisors’ understanding and existing support provision

Mental health and wellbeing of international doctoral students in the UK: An investigation of supervisors’ understanding and existing support provision

This research will investigate how well supervisors understand the mental health and wellbeing of international doctoral students, and what support supervisors can provide given the seemingly poor levels of psychological wellbeing experienced by this group. Based on our recent engagements with HE stakeholders in supporting international doctoral students, a focus on supervisors’ role was strongly endorsed. We propose to explore this timely but less explored area through: a) extant blog narratives on international supervision; and) b) in-depth creative interviews with experienced doctoral supervisors from UK HE institutions. With the breadth (whole UK), depth, and complementarity of textual and visual data, it is expected that the findings will yield evidence-based understanding and inform the development of interventions and an invaluable training package tailored to supervisors of international doctoral students.

Extended Summary & Powerpoints


PI and Co-PIs - International Collaborators

Dr Chris Blackmore (PI) Senior University Teacher, University of Sheffield

Dr Dely L Elliot (Co-I) Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow, School of Education

Dr Rob Daley (Advisory role) Academic Developer, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Kay Guccione (Advisory role) Mentoring and Coaching Consultant, University of Sheffield


Start and End Date

October 2018 to July 2019.


Funder and Funding Amount

UK Council for International Student Affairs - £10,000


Related Publications

  • Barry, K.M., Woods, M., Warnecke, E., Stirling, C. & Martin, A. (2018). Psychological health of doctoral candidates, study-related challenges and perceived performance. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(3), 468-483. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1425979.
  • Elliot, D. L., & Kobayashi, S. (2018). How can PhD supervisors play a role in bridging academic cultures? Teaching in Higher Education, (Accepted for Publication).
  • Elliot, D.L., Reid, K., & Baumfield, V. (2016a). Beyond the amusement, puzzlement and challenges: an enquiry into international students’ academic acculturation. Studies in Higher Education, 41(12), 2198-2217. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1029903.
  • Elliot, D.L., Baumfield, V., & Reid, K. (2016b). Searching for ‘a third space’: a creative pathway towards international PhD students’ academic acculturation. Higher Education Research & Development, 35(6), 1180-1195. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2016.1144575
  • Elliot, D.L., Baumfield, V., Reid, K., & Makara, K.A. (2016c). Hidden treasure: successful international doctoral students who found and harnessed the hidden curriculum. Oxford Review of Education, 42(6), 733-748. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2016.1229664.
  • Evans, C. (2007). The experience of international doctoral education in nursing: An exploratory survey of staff and international nursing students in a British university. Nurse Education Today, 27(5), 499-505.
  • HESA (2017). Where do HE students come from? Available at https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/where-from (accessed on 21/05/18)
  • Holliday, A. (2017). PhD students, interculturality, reflexivity, community and internationalisation. Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development, 38(3), 206-218. doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2015.1134554.
  • Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46, 868-879. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2017.02.008
  • Metcalfe, J., Wilson, S., & Levecque, K. (2018). Exploring wellbeing and mental health and associated support services for postgraduate researchers. Report available at https://re.ukri.org/documents/2018/mental-health-report/ (accessed on 10/08/18)
  • Odena, O., & Burgess, H. (2017). How doctoral students and graduates describe facilitating experiences and strategies for their thesis writing learning process: a qualitative approach. Studies in Higher Education, 42(3), 572-590. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1063598.
  • Reavey, P., ed. (2011). Visual Methods in Psychology: Using and Interpreting Images in Qualitative Research. East Sussex: Psychology Press.
  • Slight, C. (2017). Postgraduate Research Experience Survey Report 2017. National results available at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/postgraduate-research-experience-survey-report-2017 (accessed on 10/04/18)

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