Research Projects

The International and Comparative Education Research Group (ICE) is currently developing and carrying out the following major multi-year research projects on student mobilities:

Project 1: “Brunei as Destination for Student Mobilities: International Students’ Perceptions and Experiences”, led by Senior Professor Phan Le Ha, Associate Professor Noor Azam Hj Othman, and Dr Yabit bin Alas

Project 2: “Bruneian Students doing their Community Outreach Program Overseas and in Brunei: Impacts on Identity Formation and Educational and Professional Trajectories”, led by Dr Yabit bin Alas and Senior Professor Phan Le Ha

Project 3: “Internationalisation of/in Higher Education through Student Mobilities: UBD’s Discovery Year as a Case Study”, led by Senior Professor Phan Le Ha and Dr Sarah Catherine Boye

Please see below for information about individual research proposals under these research projects. Information about new research proposals will be updated over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year as that information becomes available.

Research Proposal No. 1 (Project 1)

Mobility and Internationalisation

Analysing Educational Experiences and Foreign Languge Anxiety among International Studies in UBD

Research Synopsis

In recent years, various studies have looked into international students’ mobility and experiences in foreign contexts (Phan 2009; Trahar & Hyland, 2011; Xu, 2015), such as reviewing a wideranging educational experience in foreign settings (Phan, 2013; Richardson & Munday, 2013; Ziguras & McBurnie, 2011) and analysing international students’ attitudes towards learning a second or foreign language (Chelia, 2018; Phan, 2017, 2018). However, only fewer studies delved into similar endeavours in the context of Brunei.

This research project thus takes the opportunity to examine the educational experiences of international students in the Intensive English Proficiency Course (IEPC), under the Global Discovery Programme at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD). Hypothetically, these students may experience internal and external pressures to conform to unfamiliar local norms and values, while adapting to the cultural realities of learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Brunei.

Whilst this project investigates the general educational experience of learning English in a broader sense, it also looks into the possibility of identifying language anxiety among these EFL students by incorporating Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope’s (1986) Foreign Language Anxiety framework. This also relates to the apprehension of learning and using English due to individual attributes and/or variables within or outside the classroom which may interfere with the learning process and affect their educational experience (Aida, 1994; Hashemi, 2011; He, 2017; von Worde, 2003).

Therefore, this research project attempts to answer three main research questions:

(1) what is the common educational perception of learning experience at UBD for these international students;

(2) is there any evidence of FLA among these international students; and

(3) do the students’ general learning attitudes and FLA affect their ability to master the English language.

The qualitative approach in this study will focus on the self-belief and experiences of 15 international students of different nationalities who have gone through IEPC. Face-to-face narrative interviews consisting of semistructured questions are expected to elicit the most natural and ingenuous responses from the research participants. This methodology also allows the participants to interpret their own individual learning experiences that would have been shaped to fit a schema accumulated through their social and cultural experiences in UBD. Their responses will later be analysed and discussed using thematic discourse analysis. The tentative duration of the research design and data collection is approximately 4 to 6 months starting November 2019.

This research project aims to provide a vignette of international students’ educational experiences in the socio-cultural context of Brunei that is not predominantly reflected in academic research. While providing a platform to share international students’ experiences, the insights gained from this project can also be used by English language instructors to enhance their pedagogical approaches, and maximise the students’ learning experience and ultimately help inform their decision to choose Brunei as their English language learning destination.

This exploratory project is expected to provide more opportunities for the investigators to venture on other related issues of educational experiences and FLA including the effect of cultural and psychological factors and coping strategies involving students’ mobilities and internalisation opportunities in Brunei.


Aida, Y. (1994). Examination of Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope’s construct of foreign language anxiety: The case of students of Japanese. The Modern Language Journal, 78, 155-167.

Chelia, H. (2018). A brief overview on students’ mobility and its impact on second language use. International Journal of Emerging Trends in Social Sciences, 2(2), 64-73.

Hashemi, M. (2011). Language stress and anxiety among the English language learners. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1811-1816.

He, D. P. (2017). How to cope with foreign language speaking anxiety effectively? The case of university students in China. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 14(2), 159-174.

Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 70, 125-132.

Phan, L. H. (2009). English as an international language: International student and identity formation. Language and Intercultural Communication, 9(3), 201-214.

Phan, L. H. (2013). Issues surrounding English, the internalisation of higher education and national cultural identity in Asia: A focus in Japan. Critical Studies of Education, 54(2), 160-175.

Phan, L. H. (2017). Transnational education crossing ‘Asia’ and ‘the West’: Adjusted desire, transformative mediocrity, neo-colonial disguise. Oxon, London: Routledge.

Phan, L. H. (2018). Higher education, English, and the idea of ‘the West’: globalizing and encountering a global south regional university. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics Education, 39(5), 782-797.

Richardson, R. & Munday, J. (2013). International student mobility programs and effects on student teachers’ perceptions and beliefs about education and their role as future educators. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 1(3), 240-246.

Trahar, S. & Hyland, F. (2011). Experiences and perceptions of internalisation in higher education in the UK. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(5), 623-633.
von Worde, R. (2003). Students’ perspectives on foreign language anxiety. Inquiry, 8(1), 1-15.

Xu, C. L. (2015). Identity and cross-border student mobility: The mainland China-Hong Kong experience. European Educational Research Journal, 14(1), 65-73.

Ziguras, C. & McBurnie, G. (2011) International Student Mobility in the Asia-Pacific: From Globalization to Regional Integration? In S. Marginson, S. Kaur, E. Sawir (eds.) Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific. Higher Education Dynamics (pp. 123-140). Dordrecht: Springer.

Research proposal No. 2 (projects 2 & 3)

Bruneian Students on Discovery Year

Mobilities Aspirations, Mobilities Decision-Making and Life Course Planning

Research Synopsis

The field of international student mobilities remains a fertile ground for research as exemplified by the expansion of discourses on students mobilities by researchers within this field over recent years (Yoon 2014, Cairns 2016, Doughty and Murray 2016, Yang 2018).

The nuances in students’ experiences of mobilities offer researchers with rich findings to (re)frame and understand today’s youth mobilities. Focusing on institutionalised mobilities programme within this field, universities worldwide have taken up the rein in actively shaping professional, skilled, culturally competent, and cosmopolitan students via educational curricula that embed short-term to longer-term mobilities.

Universiti Brunei Darussalam, a young and emerging university in Southeast Asia, is not excluded from offering such mobility programmes. Via the university’s Discovery Year Programme, students are given the opportunity to gain locally based or overseas experience outside of the university.

While the interest in students’ mobilities and the recognition of experiential learning initiatives continue to grow in size and intensity, future aspirations, mobilities aspirations and mobilities decision-making by the students themselves within an institutionalised mobilities programme remain understudied, especially in the context of Southeast Asian students mobilities, as argued forcefully by Ortega (2018) and Phan (2018).
Given these gaps in the existing literature in general and in the context of Bruneian students mobilities in particular, focusing on Bruneian students on Discovery Year (SEP, COP, Internship, and Incubation), this project seeks to investigate two interlinked aspects of their mobilities:

1) their future aspirations and life course planning; and

2) their mobility decisions with regards to their Discovery Year.

The project aims to capture the nuances in Bruneian students Discovery Year mobilities by exploring the complex interplay between their mobilities aspirations and mobility decision-making that are framed as a reflexive process throughout their life at the university, and their reflection and experiences of the Discovery Year contextualised within the local and global contexts.

Research data are to be elicited by a pre-Discovery Year interview, a post-Discovery Year interview, and a reflective journal written while the programme is running. Ultimately, this research is hoped to offer insights into the students’ (re)framing and understanding of mobilities, their reworking of aspirations and rethinking of their adult future as an ongoing and reflexive activity in the context of today’s precarious condition locally and globally, and the possibility of restructuring the current GenNext curriculum to offer a more relevant mobilities programme suitable to the needs of the future students.

Keywords: youth mobilities; Brunei; Discovery Year; aspirations; decision-making; international students mobilities