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Internationalising UK students through migrant academic staff

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posted on 18.06.2019, 11:05 authored by Natalie Tebbett
Work on academic mobility has primarily explored the movement of people and the production and circulation of ideas, concepts, and innovations in scientific research. The movement of knowledge for the purpose of HE teaching and learning, however, remains under-researched. Aiming to respond to this lack of attention, this thesis investigates how international academic staff transfer ideas and academic perspectives acquired in non-UK pedagogic environments to students at UK universities. The thesis examines the opportunities and challenges migrant academic staff face in engaging in such knowledge transfer while adapting to UK HE, exploring three research objectives: (1) to analyse the experiences of migrant academic staff in the UK with regard to the transfer and adaptation of international ideas and concepts in their teaching and learning practice; (2) to examine the impact of “foreignness as a teaching resource” (Alberts 2008: 198) on UK students taught by international academics; and (3) to assess to what extent UK universities recognise and support non-UK academics as a valuable resource in teaching and learning. To address these objectives, I utilised a multi-method approach comprising 41 semi-structured interviews with international faculty, senior management and professional development staff, and a questionnaire survey with 185 undergraduate students. The fieldwork was conducted at three research-intensive case-study universities in England, from December 2014 to January 2016.

The thesis significantly advances knowledge on geographies of education and migration studies in several ways. First, it highlights the uneven geographies of knowledge transfer in HE teaching and learning. Second, student encounters with migrant academic staff may drive change in certain UK undergraduate learners through developing intercultural respect, stimulating open-mindedness, expanding horizons, and promoting tolerance of otherness. Third, the case-study universities only cursorily capitalised on migrant academics’ insights about other knowledge environments in relation to pedagogic approaches and knowledge claims, and therefore the thesis points to the need for further progressive debates about how best to mobilise and support international best practice. In doing the above, the thesis advances a new conceptualisation – double-being, double-thinking – that emphasises the disparate knowledge environments that migrant academics straddle. Thus, the thesis opens up a new research agenda in emerging scholarship about the internationalisation of higher education through migrant academic staff.


Higher Education Academy



Social Sciences


Geography and Environment


Loughborough University

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© Natalie Tebbett

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.




Michael Hoyler ; Heike Jöns

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