Advising international candidates

About advising international candidates

UQ has a diverse academic environment with Advisors and students from many different cultural backgrounds.  Almost 50% of UQ’s HDR candidates are international and come from over 100 different countries. As an Advisor at UQ it is likely that you will supervise candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and benefit from the different outlooks and approaches to research that these students bring. 

As an advisor it is important to have an awareness of the unique challenges often faced by international candidates. These include

  • pressure around finances or timelines due to visas, or their financial sponsor. Eg. certain sponsors have very specific clauses that require students to return by a certain date or forfeit the funds provided.
  • a different understanding of power dynamics
  • entering the Australian system from a very different educational background
  • isolation - being separated from family and friends in their home country
  • language difficulties
  • cultural barriers

The SBS Cultural Atlas is a valuable resource where you can find information about cultural etiquette and cultural dimensions.


UQ provides an online advisor training module, which covers a range of topics, but has a module focused on supervising international candidates. Running through the case studies provided can help you understand how to be a more effective advisor to international candidates. 

International Education Association of Australia has also published a guide that outlines seven good practice principles for Advisors working with international HDR candidates. 

Don’t make assumptions

Coming from different educational and cultural backgrounds means that there will be differences in the way and manner in which candidates communicate with their advisor.

Do not assume this will follow the same logic as you employ. For example, in some cultures deferring to an authority figure (such as an Advisor) is the norm, which may mean that a candidate does not contribute to an academic discussion with an opposing opinion. You may need to help them understand that this is not rude in UQ’s culture and is encouraged.

Set expectations

Ensure sure you discuss expectations with your candidate and clarify any areas of ambiguity around roles or responsibilities. The Oxford Expectations in Supervision assessment can assist with this.

International candidates need help and support

When candidates arrive in a new country they face a number of barriers that make getting settled and feeling at home a challenge. It is important as an advisor to know where you can provide support, and where services are available to direct your students to. 

Before arrival

Student Services provide a great resource for students prior to arrival. 

Making connections

Help your students to get settled and connect with others while at UQ. Direct them to

Development and training

Candidates may find a number of workshops available through the Career Development Framework of value as they progress through their HDR program. There are workshops to assist with writing and communication, research skills, and career development, among others.


Student Services has a number of counsellors on staff to assist candidates in understanding their problems and identify appropriate strategies to tackle them. They also have a 24 crises help line.

Religious support

The UQ Multi-faith Chaplaincy is an inclusive and welcoming space for students, staff and community to share faith, traditions and spiritual practices with respect for each person’s spiritual journey and chosen faith. We have a number of chaplains on staff who provide pastoral care, support, spiritual conversations, learning and events.

Migration support

Many international students decide to bring family to join them, or will need to adjust their visa. UQ Student Help on Campus (SHOC) provides migration support services that students can access. 

Student Services

UQ provides a number of services to support students, such as accommodation support, international specific support, disability support and wellbeing support, among others.