5 December 2014

Confirmation of PhD study - "Academic staff and international engagement: motivations and drivers in Australian higher education"

Delighted to confirm the final shape of my PhD research project at the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne. With thanks to my supervisors (Sophie Arkoudis & Chi Baik) and broader Advisory Committee (Bill Harley & Stefan Popenici) for their support in getting me this far - one year down, two years to go!!

This research investigates the factors which influence the international engagement of academic staff in Australian universities.

In line with global changes to higher education and the academic profession, Australian universities and their academic staff have been influenced by a new wave of internationalisation. In response, many higher education institutions in Australia have adopted comprehensive international strategies across their teaching, research and outreach agendas.

Given the central role of academic staff within the life of the university, and with international strategies now touching on all aspects of a university’s activity, it is assumed that academic staff will play a key role in the further internationalisation of Australian higher education. Yet little is known about the factors which influence the international engagement of Australian academics and the extent to which they consider international activities an important aspect of their academic work.

This study will seek to explore the extent to which different aspects of international engagement have been integrated into contemporary understandings of academic work and academic identity in Australia. The study is designed to answer the following key research question:

  • What factors influence the international engagement of academic staff in Australian universities?

In exploring these factors, the following sub-questions will be asked:
  • How and where do international activities fit into Australian understandings of academic practice? 
  • Has internationalisation served as a catalyst for change in academic work? 
  • Do academic staff consider it their responsibility to engage with international activities, or not? 
  • What are the drivers and barriers to international engagement amongst Australian academic staff?

Based on an Adaptive Theory approach (Layder, 1998), the research project will take a case study of two universities, with qualitative data to be collected through document analysis and in-depth interviews. Case study institutions (both in Victoria, Australia) are referred to as Research Intensive University and Innovative Comprehensive University, with participants drawn from Science and Business/Economics disciplines at both institutions.

Drawing on prior theory (drawn from earlier models and frameworks) and emergent theory (drawn from collected data), this research will seek to generate an explanatory model for the international engagement of academic staff in Australia.