This paper reports on a project which explored the experiences of a group of East Asian students studying postgraduate business programmes at a British university. Data drawn from a series of in-depth interviews with the students and their lecturers provided clear evidence that many of the students faced a substantial number of difficulties which affected their learning. The data also show that the lecturers and students had differing perceptions about why such difficulties arose. Whilst lecturers regarded language as the essential cause of East Asian students’ difficulties, the students recognised that, additionally, a lack of culturally-related knowledge of UK HE academic norms presented a fundamental challenge to their learning. The authors argue that these culturally-based academic practices need to be made more explicit to students. We also suggest that the complexity of East Asian cultures of learning are not fully understood or appreciated in British universities where, despite much relevant research and a range of institutional initiatives, a “deficit view” of international student behaviour and ability is still widespread. We contend that current university strategies may need to be reviewed if institutions and academic staff are to understand and resolve some of the difficulties international students face during their studies.