While reading Nan Jiang and Victoria Carpenter’s “A case study of issues of strategy implementation in internationalization of higher education”, I was particularly interested in learning about how three distinct university groups — Corporate, Marketing, and Faculty — all work together (or, in some cases, butt heads) regarding internationalization efforts.
Given that all three groups of stakeholders oftentimes have different agendas, it is important that leaders from all groups try to come together to find common ground. According to the article, there is plenty of overlap between each group, and finding ways for each group to see internationalization benefiting its own specific cohort needs to be one of the top priorities of administrative leaders. As the article states, “HE internationalization is primarily an internal matter of integration, rather than a process driven only by external environment” (Jiang & Carpenter, 2011, pp. 4), so the most successful internationalization efforts are those that fully engage each group.
The group I was most interested in learning about were the faculty. While this article specifically looked at universities in the UK, I imagine there is a lot of overlap with the United States regarding the challenges universities face in integrating faculty into their internationalization efforts. The article lists many reasons why faculty may be apprehensive about internationalization efforts, which include a perceived increased work load, uncertainty about working and research integrity in different cultures, and the concern that taking time off to go abroad might derail their academic career at home, to name a few.
While this article didn’t explicitly mention this, I assume the group “faculty” refers to faculty members who are tenured or tenured-track, not faculty who are hired as adjunct instructors. Unfortunately, I don’t know very much about faculty hiring practices in countries outside the U.S., so the remainder of this blog post will particularly examine how this relates to U.S. HEIs. Given the increasing number of adjunct instructors teaching at U.S. colleges and universities — currently, nearly 75 percent of faculty are hired as adjuncts — I am curious how much (or little) they can be integrated into internationalization efforts. My gut instinct, unfortunately, tells me that adjunct instructors currently have little to no role in internationalization efforts.
Unlike their tenure or tenure-track peers, adjunct instructors are eligible for very limited (if any) professional development funding, which could help them pursue research opportunities abroad (although shout out to CUNY for providing PSC/CUNY Adjunct Professional Development Grants, which is “one of the first such programs in the country”). Additionally, teaching contracts are generally given on a semester-to-semester basis, which would immediately disqualify many adjunct instructors from pursuing internationalization initiatives, since they generally take more foresight and planning. Lastly, the low pay and lack of benefits would likely discourage adjuncts from pursuing potentially risky internationalization efforts since they would have nothing to fall back on if the internationalization initiative fell through.
As adjunct faculty continue to make up a larger proportion of faculty overall, U.S. higher education institutions must place a greater importance of integrating this group into internationalization efforts. Since many adjuncts are recent graduates from PhD programs and are relatively young compared to tenured professors (according to the European University Institute’s study on U.S. HEIs, “very few people become Full Professors before the age of 40; the average age of Full Professors is 55 and the average age when tenure is granted is at 39”), they might be especially willing to take a temporary position abroad to spearhead a new academic initiative (not to mention this experience would probably make them a more competitive candidate for tenure-track positions back in the United States). Additionally, the tough academic job market means that many new PhDs have been forced to pursue a broader range of non-academic experiences, which means they might have specific skills that traditional faculty lack regarding implementation of internationalization efforts.
So while it’s important that all faculty be engaged in internationalization efforts, U.S. higher education institutions should also increase their engagement of adjunct instructors in internationalization.