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Academic Mobilities and Immobilities Network

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Heike Behle

Institute for Employment Research

Xuemeng Cao

Centre for Education Studies

Emily Henderson

Centre for Education Studies

Stephanie Schnurr

Centre for Applied Linguistics

Charoula Tzanakou

Politics and International Studies


Academic mobility is a topic of growing importance in the higher education policy landscape.

As the status of international university rankings grows in the international higher education marketplace, universities are facing ever-growing pressure to collaborate across national borders and regional systems. More students are travelling to other countries for their higher education, and this mobility is often multi-layered, with students travelling to different countries for different qualifications, and at times studying 'abroad' in yet another country during their studies. Employers are adding an extra layer of pressure by demanding that graduates emerge from university with international experience, and not just any international experience: the quality, location and duration of that experience are also coming under scrutiny. At the same time, many returning graduates find it problematic to communicate to potential employers the skills and knowledge they gained whilst studying abroad.

At the level of national and international research funding, the academic profession is also being shaped by demands to collaborate internationally, to have an 'international outlook', to contribute to the global knowledge economy. Research teams are increasingly obliged to meet what are often demand-side conditions from funders to include collaborators from specified regions or countries, which is leading to a new set of challenges and issues in the ethics and politics of global knowledge production. Mobility funding for academics to travel is increasingly demanding more value-for-money - academics are expected to travel for shorter durations, while gaining the same benefits of increased cultural and contextual understanding and international networks. New forms of ICT facilitate international knowledge exchange, and have implications for network building. But in spite of these technological advancements, issues of gender inequality, in terms of gaining access to and negotiating the practicalities of mobility, remain.

This network brings together academic and non-academic staff from Warwick who are working in the area of academic mobility and immobility. The core departments are the Centre for Education Studies, Politics and International Studies, the Centre for Applied Linguistics and the Institute of Employment Research, but the network is expected to gain contributions from Sociology and Law, the International Development GRP, as well as the Office for Global Engagement. The network aims to draw on existing expertise within Warwick, as well as connections from other universities in the UK (for example University of Lancaster and University of East London, University of Edinburgh, University of Sussex) and organisations (for example British Council, ESRC, SRHE, European Commission – DG Education and Culture, DG Research and Innovation). The network brings together different strands of mobility research, in order to produce a more connected and holistic view of academic mobility. Some of the questions that will be addressed include: who is (not) moving, why and how? How do different mobilities intersect (e.g. short term and long term, students and academics)? What are the impacts of academic mobility on employment, the academic profession and international knowledge production? How can we research and theorise academic mobility? How can we contribute to models of best practice for funded mobility? What are the drivers and barriers to mobility? How do new forms of ICT support mobility? Are patterns of mobility and immobility linked to gender?

The network includes academics who are researching in this area, and who are faced with the challenge of how to research and theorise academic mobility, which defies many traditional research tools because it exceeds borders and categories. A key dimension of this network is its involvement with funding providers and university administrators who are involved in the planning and implementation of mobility schemes, so that the agenda and activities of the network are both influenced by and able to contribute to the academic mobility agenda within and beyond Warwick.