SRHE Migration and Academic Acculturation event

We had a great day at the SRHE migration** and academic acculturation event which Namrata organised (with a little bit of help from me). It was supposedly one of the hottest and sunniest days of the year, unfortunately, the a/c was down at SRHE but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the day.

How the day started

Emily Henderson who was the convenor for the International Research and Researchers (IRR) network introduced the event and forewarned everyone that the timekeeping will be strict! Emily thought it might be a good idea for other people to propose an event based on their research/ upcoming book.

Our Projects

Namrata introduced the day with a list of all our projects with migrant academics which is nicely summarised in the picture below:

Migrant Academics Projects

Controversial questions

And we had a look at some controversial questions in the field about migrant academics*.

Controversial questions

It was good to see that most people didn’t think that focusing on the migrant academics was too controversial – but then again we had a biased sample! But interestingly enough, there was definitely a move to consider the real value of migrant academics to British academia (which essentially is our SRHE project!).

Narratives from the book

We then had Erik Blair, Henry Kum and Maja Jankowska talking about their experiences as migrant academics based on their chapters from the Academics International Teaching Journey book.

Erik spoke about his journey as a British academic to Trinidad and Tobago. He also wondered if he was a native academic because he’s Scottish working in Britain. He showed how he used a model based on Schon’s reflective practice work to think about his experiences, divided into four parts:

  • Involvement
  • Rehearsal
  • Consideration
  • Deliberation

Henry spoke about his journey from Cameroon to Scotland and then to England. He indicated that he noticed what was different between his experiences were the differences in class sizes (in the UK being quite small) and the amount of power given to students in the UK. He also suggested, like Gidden’s Protective Cocoon, that he began looking inwards to himself rather than outwards in sharing his professional practice (for which Erik commented that it was completely a different experience for him and wonders to what extent that culture, environment and personality plays a part).

Maja spoke about her journey from Poland to England, and how she is identified as a Home academic (because of the EU) but does not feel at Home; that she doesn’t recognise the educational system here, which devalues her educational achievements. She also indicated in the UK she has too many hats: teaching, research, administration, pastoral care, personal tutoring; whilst in Poland she was just a teacher.

Native migrant views of the migrant academics

Ian Kinchin presented on our work so far around the value that native academics believe that migrant academics bring to their professional learning. Of course being Ian, there was some talk about concept maps and how we used these to represent the interviews we had with native academics. The key issues that he saw based on the concept map mediated interviews was that through our feelings of discomfort when working with migrant academics that was can start having a meaningful dialogue where we can have a shared understanding of values and from this promote mutual respect and understanding which hopefully lead to some type of professional gain.

Panel Discussion

Finally, we had the panel discussion with Thushari Welikala, Chloe Shu-Hua Yeh, Will Mace and myself. Thushari provided a view of reciprocal determinism, Chloe on how to create support networks, myself on how to create incidents for professional and native migrants to learn, whilst Will as a new and native migrant provided some comments on these. Will noted in particular that successful migrant academics are open-minded, willing to integrate, however, it puts a lot of onus on the migrant academic and not anything on the institution. From this we distilled four main recommendations, which we had the audience vote on which they would like to engage with*:

Professional Learning Engagement

What was interesting that people were more likely to engage in sharing narrative and experiences but not participating in training or support networks. This means we’re more likely to get traction from sharing narratives and experiences of practice.

Key themes

We had some good discussions during the panel period where we had several key themes that were reiterated throughout the day:

Migrant vs native: There was a discussion on whether these are the most appropriate terminologies, although whether there is any politically correct terminology is up for debate, although Henry Kum suggested the word ex-patriates for migrant academics who are moving for long-term posts.

Migrant as an individual: The narratives coming through and the way we speak about migrant academics mobility always speak about the individual migrant decision-making process without considering the other decision-makers in the mobility (i.e. family leaving behind or taking).

Respect: The issue of sometimes devaluing migrants professional practice etc comes down to us not respecting the contributions that each individual can make. Therefore, when we say we want an internationalised university, we should mean we respect the ideas, values and practice of migrant academics without expecting them to become a “native” academic – otherwise, we are not truly internationalised.


* Some of the audience members were wondering why I had negatively worded questions; and the answer is I wanted to reduce acquiescence bias (i.e. the tendency to agree with questions) and make them really think about what they want!

** Update: Some podcasts from the day are available here:

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