22 SES 06 A, International Students
As the world has been increasingly globalized, the higher education sector is being shaped and transformed by internationalisation, which is identified as ‘one of the most powerful and pervasive forces at work within higher education around the world’ (Rumbley, Altbach, & Reisberg, 2012, p. 3). In the enactment of internationalisation, academic staff are seen as primary agents lying at the core of the faculty (Childress, 2010; Leask & Beelen, 2009; Proctor, 2015). Given academics’ crucial role in internationalisation implementation, the achievements of internationalisation is claimed to be constrained by the lack of academic staff’s involvement and expertise (Beelen, 2011; Childress, 2010; Leask & Beelen, 2009; Proctor, 2015; Stohl, 2007). Having said that, little research has addressed academics’ experiences in internationalisation (Proctor, 2015; Sanderson, 2011). Comparative studies on internationalisation in higher education in general and on staff capacity building in internationalisation in particular are even more barren. Therefore, my study aims to investigate the practices of academic staff’s engagement and capacity building in internationalisation across two different contexts, taking one university in each country as cases under study.
Australia and Vietnam are two good representatives because they provide contrastive rationales for internationalisation (internationalisation at ‘trade’ in Australia, as opposed to internationalisation for international integration and cooperation in Vietnam) and also their positions in the international higher education market (Australia as a major exporter of international education and Vietnam mainly as a receiver or importer) (Adams, Banks, & Olsen, 2011; De Wit & Adams, 2010; Thủ Tướng Chính Phủ, 2012; Tran, Marginson, & Nguyen, 2014). To that end, my research seeks to answer an overarching question “To what extent are academic staff engaged in the internationalisation of higher education and how can their engagement be enhanced?”. In particular, my research looks at academics’ activities of internationalisation, motivations, opportunities and support from their institutions, and their professional learning needs for better capacity in internationalisation.
In order to conceptualize the engagement of academic staff in their institution’s internationalisation agenda, this research draws on Sen’s Capability Approach (Sen, 1985, 1992, 1999), which is originally a moral framework for assessing human development. Consisting of three key concepts – functioning, capabilities, and agency, the Capability Approach emphasizes the understanding of capabilities and agency in evaluating a functioning. Seeing ‘capability’ as the opportunity or freedom a person actually has, Sen holds that capabilities “depend on the nature of social arrangements” (Sen 1999, p. 288) and that the agency aspect of a person is important in assessing “what a person can do in line with his or her conception of the good” (Sen 1985, p. 206). This research views academics’ engagement in internationalisation as an achieved ‘functioning’ and argues that their engagement depends on opportunities or constraints (capabilities) created by higher education institutions (social arrangements), and on academic staff’s agency in choice making and converting the given resources into functioning (engagement). The institutional conditions and arrangements, which are policies and practices, including leadership, resources, funding, professional development activities, etc. may create or reduce capabilities for academic staff in the internationalisation agenda. These capabilities give academics options, based on which they utilise their agency make decision to (dis)engage with the internationalisation process. From that perspective, examining the institution’s support structure and academics’ agency will reveal underpinning factors that facilitate or hinder academics’ engagement, then suggest how their capacity could be enhanced through capacity building practices, including professional learning activities for internationalisation. By large, the Capability Approach provides a conceptual lens to frame the research and interpret the factors influencing academics’ engagement in internationalisation.
This research follows comparative qualitative case study inquiry based on constructivist paradigm for a number of reasons. First, the qualitative case study design allows for an in-depth understanding of the cases under study with thick and vivid description of participants’ lived experience, thoughts, and feelings (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000; Creswell, 2013), thus enabling a detailed picture of the what, how and why of engagement with internationalisation among academics. Second, the constructivist worldview acknowledges the researcher’s own experiences and background in shaping their interpretation (Creswell, 2013), hence making use of my professional background as an academic. Third, apart from peculiarities, the comparative method offers the diversified characteristics of the cases, thus minimising hidden biases, assumptions, and values when the researcher applies the concepts in data analysis (Neuman, 2014). The research involves collective multi-sited cases, focusing on one issue (academic staff’s engagement) in two different settings (one Vietnamese university and one Australian university). Both institutions are selected based on their active enactment of internationalisation compared to other local universities in the country. Two main methods of data collection are employed, namely official documents and face-to-face interviews. Documents are collected at both national and institutional levels. National policy documents include national strategies, regulations, guidance, etc. while institutional official documents are strategic plans, guidelines, institutional reports, and other official documents. Besides documents, semi-structured interviews are conducted as a principle means of data collection to seek perceptions of leaders and academics themselves, which offer a thick and vivid description of participants’ lived experience of, thoughts about and feelings for a situation (Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2000). National policy makers clarify the ideologies and intentions behind the national policies of internationalisation, which explains the similar and different macro-level rationales for internationalisation in Australia and Vietnam. Institutional leaders provide background knowledge of institution’s strategies for internationalisation as well as their policies and initiatives in increasing academic staff’s engagement in their internationalisation. Most importantly, interviews with academics themselves reveal their personal accounts on their involvement, motivations, opportunities and obstacles and their professional development needs. The total of 30 participants, including two policy makers, eight institutional executives and 20 academics from both countries have been interviewed individually for one hour. Both documents and interviews are analysed using thematic content analysis approach with the help of NVivo software. Findings are then discussed in connection to the literature and conceptual framework for insightful answers to the research questions.
This presentation is part of my ongoing four-year empirical PhD thesis. The thesis, when completed, is expected to provide comparative insights of academics’ engagement in internationalisation of their universities across two contexts and what can be done within and beyond institutions to enhance their engagement and capacity, including professional learning activities. Given the general contrasts in national internationalisation rationales and practices between Vietnam and Australia, interesting discrepancies as well as similarities in both institutions will be the finding highlights of my study, providing pivotal implications for institution’s capacity building strategies. As such, my study can be of strong interest to both higher education institutions and governments alike. Preliminary analysis of Vietnamese data shows some interesting findings of the developing country context. In contrast to the claim in the literature that academics are resistant to internationalisation activities (Childress, 2010; Leask & Beelen, 2009), Vietnamese academics are, in fact, very motivated to be involved as most of them perceive international engagement opportunities as prestigious and beneficial for their profile and professional development. However, Vietnamese academics’ engagement remains constrained by a number of socio-cultural factors (social arrangements) such as unequal opportunities, the culture of symbolic and reputational values, complicated bureaucratic procedures, unclear job descriptions, insufficient library access and infrastructure, academics’ inferior power beyond classroom compared to administrative staff, and their limited personal agency in seeking opportunities. Moreover, very few professional learning opportunities are offered by the institution and, if any, are not much related to internationalisation. Another significant finding is that engagement in teaching internationalised programs are much more dominant than international engagement in research. Having acknowledged that, the Vietnamese university is increasingly making effort to improve international research capacity and collaboration via financial incentives and others. Further analysis of Australian data will promisingly provide significant, insightful comparison between the two contexts.
Adams, T., Banks, M., & Olsen, A. (2011). Benefits of international education: enriching students, enriching communities. In D. Davis & B. Mackintosh (Eds.), Making a difference: Australian international education (pp. 9-46). Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. Beelen, J. (2011). The long wait: Researching the implementation of internationalisation at home. Internationalisation revisited: New dimensions in the internationalisation of higher education. Amsterdam: CAREM, 9-20. Childress, L. K. (2010). The twenty-first century university: Developing faculty engagement in internationalization (Vol. 32): Peter Lang. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education. London and New York: Routledge. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: Sage De Wit, H., & Adams, T. (2010). Global competition in higher education: A comparative study of policies, rationales, and practices in Australia and Europe. In L. M. Portnoi, V. D. Rust, & S. S. Bagley (Eds.), Higher education, Policy, and the Global Competition Phenomenon (pp. 219-233). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Leask, B., & Beelen, J. (2009). Enhancing the engagement of academic staff in international education. Paper presented at the Proceedings of a Joint IEAA-EAIE Symposium. Neuman, L. W. (2014). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches Seventh Edition. Essex: Pearson Education. Proctor, D. (2015). Faculty and international engagement: has internationalization changed academic work? International Higher Education(83), 15-17. Rumbley, L. E., Altbach, P. G., & Reisberg, L. (2012). Internationalization Within The Higher Education Context. In D. K. Deardorff, H. de Wit, J. Heyl, & T. Adams (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education (pp. 3-26). USA: SAGE. Sanderson, G. (2011). Internationalisation and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(5), 661-676. Sen, A. (1985). Well-being, agency and freedom: The Dewey lectures 1984. The journal of philosophy, 82(4), 169-221. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality reexamined: Clarendon Press. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom: Oxford Paperbacks. Stohl, M. (2007). We have met the enemy and he is us: The role of the faculty in the internationalization of higher education in the coming decade. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3-4), 359-372. Chiến lược phát triển giáo dục 2011-2020 (Vietnam's Strategy for Education Development), (2012). Tran, L., Marginson, S., & Nguyen, N. T. (2014). Internationalization. In L. e. a. Tran (Ed.), Higher education in Vietnam: Flexibility, mobility and practicality in the global knowledge economy: Palgrave Macmillan.
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