New International Academics’ Narratives of Cross-Cultural Transition

Sharon L Thomas, Bunmi S Malau-Aduli


Increasing numbers of academics world-wide are migrating as higher education institutions internationalise. Yet academics’ experiences of cross-cultural transition remain under-explored, especially in comparison with students. This small-scale narrative study, employing focus group interviews, aimed to explore the cross-cultural transition experiences of international academics at one multi-campus university in regional Australia. This research was not institutionally-driven. Rather, it was instigated by the researchers out of concern for the welfare of new international academics at their institution. The findings are compelling, some of which underscore existing research findings of other migrating groups – for example, the complex, challenging, highly individualised nature of cross-cultural transition experiences.  Some findings, however, are unique to this group of academics – for example, the ‘culture of silence’ that permeated most aspects of their professional lives as well as the challenges inherent in developing a professional identity in a small, isolated, parochial community. These latter findings are disquieting as they highlight a gap between policy and practice within the university. More disturbingly, they are resonant of the neoliberalist ideology currently dominating higher education where hyperindividualism and survival-of-the-fittest mentalities erode collegiality. There are salutary messages for the myriad groups who work in higher education institutions about the ‘cost’ associated with an absence of comprehensive, systematic institutional transition support for international academics. Recommendations specifically aimed at new international academics include: a revision of workload models; general and pedagogically-specific induction workshops; professional learning (cross-cultural transition) workshops for support staff and senior management; and the establishment of support groups for the academics and their families.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online)

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