Shifting Identities: international staff negotiating new academic identities

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

International staff now form a substantial part of our academic populations (26% UK HESA, 2008) and are making an important contribution to our academic environments, to student learning and to research cultures, yet we pay little attention to them and the changes they may be bringing to our higher education sector. A research project, at a post 1992 university in the UK, sought to bring together international and local staff to create a space to discuss curriculum and pedagogy and to learn from each other. Participants were invited to three ‘dialogue’ meetings followed by individual interviews and a final full-day workshop. The data from the dialogue meetings and interviews contributed little to new ideas of pedagogy and curricula but exemplified how international members of staff came to understand the complexities of their new, foreign educational context and to develop their sense of themselves as academics in their new environment. Many of the international staff identified themselves as ‘local staff with international experience’. They appeared to actively manage a new fluid academic identity, adjusting their responses to ‘fit in’ with their new institutional and disciplinary environment.

Keywords: Academic identity, international staff, culture shock