Experiences of Indian Academics in Britain

November 9, 2015

A recently published study of Indian academics working at a research-intensive university in the United Kingdom challenges the “discourse of disadvantage” common in discussing the experiences of foreign academics. The study by Dulini Fernando, of the University of Warwick’s business school, and Laurie Cohen, of Nottingham University’s business school, is based on interviews with 32 early- to midcareer researchers in science and engineering fields. Fernando and Cohen found that the respondents’ single-minded focus on research and publishing over teaching, combined with their competitiveness, resilience, and work-centeredness enabled the international academics to advance in British universities.

The Indian academics in the sample also successfully leveraged their “ethnic capital” -- that is, “advantages pertaining from one’s ethnicity such as cultural knowledge and networks.” The academics were, for example, able to use their connections and cultural knowledge in India as an asset in collaborating with leading British researchers.

In short, the article highlights the unique advantages enjoyed by Indian academics, while also raising concerns about their relative (self-reported) weakness in teaching, which, the article notes, is becoming an increasingly important indicator in measuring faculty performance at British universities.

“Rather than considering international colleagues as deficient and in need of remedial support, our data reveal considerable strengths and unique advantages,” the article states. “Home academics might benefit from listening to some highly agentic international colleagues’ career accounts, in particular how they manage research alongside other work commitments, how they balance home and work and how they develop strategic research partnerships. Likewise international academics may be able to learn about citizenship and teaching from home colleagues.”

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