Renegotiating the Past, Present and Possible: Identities in Transition of Female Pakistani Students in an English University

Student thesis: Phd


Internationalisation of education has brought multiple prospects to international students and UK Universities. However, in transitioning to UK higher education, students face numerous challenges. The reasons behind such challenges are varied for international students from across the world. In this regards, Pakistani female postgraduate students may face additional challenges due to transition from a traditional family system to independent life in the UK. Students’ transitional experiences and their changing identities is a growing interest in the literature, therefore the current study addressed the question ‘how do Pakistani female students narrate their identities, before, during and after transitioning to the UK University’? To address the research question, the study adopted a qualitative multiple case study research design. The cases are female Pakistani students who studied in the UK University in September 2014- August 2015. Data was collected longitudinally at four different data point of participants stay in the UK to help answer the question, “who am I at this moment in time and in a given context?” To facilitate participants’ reflection on identity construction in transition, visual prompts (i.e. photos, timeline and relational maps) were used in the second, third and fourth interviews respectively. Identity in the study is seen as multiple, ongoing and ever changing with time. Holland et al.’s (1998) concept of cultural models and positional identities informed the analysis and interpretation of the data. The key findings include understanding the complex ongoing transformation of the female Pakistani students transitioning to UK higher education. The study found transition as projecting forward and identity as the story of the past (e.g. life in Pakistan), which individuals narrate continuously in the present (e.g. during this study at four data points), and in each present they change and fix their pasts in a particular way. The study has implications for Universities, policy makers and tutors to transcend an institutional focus on understanding international students’ transition (in terms of transition both to UK and back) into a broader enculturated view. Further, tutors and supervisors need to consider international students’ cultural norms for their smooth transition and better student–teacher understandings.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPauline Prevett (Supervisor) & Drew Whitworth (Supervisor)


  • Changing Identities
  • Visual Methods
  • Transition to UK Higher Eucation
  • Female Pakistani Postgraduate Students

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