Building academic staff’s capacity for internationalisation in Vietnamese and Australian universities: A comparative case study

Year: 2019

Author: Nguyen, Diep

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the enactment of internationalisation of higher education, academic staff are seen as primary agents lying at the core of the faculty. Despite academics’ crucial role in internationalisation implementation, the achievements of internationalisation are claimed to be constrained by their lack of relevant knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, academics’ capacity building in internationalisation has been under-researched, and comparative studies on this topic are barren. In this context, my study compares the practices of capacity building in internationalisation between Vietnamese and Australian universities. Australia and Vietnam provide contrastive rationales for internationalisation (internationalisation at ‘trade’ in Australia, as opposed to internationalisation for international integration and cooperation in Vietnam) and their positions in the international higher education market (Australia as a major exporter of international education and Vietnam mainly as a receiver or importer). Specifically, my research looks at the university’s current policies and practices of capacity building for academics, and academics’ agency in mediating their professional learning needs and finding opportunities for engagement in professional learning.

In order to conceptualize the capacity building for academic staff in internationalisation, this research draws on Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach, which is an analytical framework for assessing human development. This research views academics’ knowledge and skills in internationalisation as achieved functioningsand argues that the development of their competencies depends on the enabling or constraining social arrangements created by higher education institutions, and on academic staff’s agencyin capacity building. Reversely, examining the institution’s support structure and academics’ agency reveals underpinning factors that influence academics’ capacity building.

This research follows comparative qualitative case study inquiry based on constructivist paradigm. The research involves collective multi-sited cases, focusing on one issue in two different settings (one Vietnamese university and one Australian university). Both institutions are selected based on their proactive enactment of internationalisation compared to other local universities. Two main methods of data collection are employed: official documents (national and institutional policy documents) and semi-structured interviews with 30 participants, including two policy makers, eight institutional executives and 20 academics from both countries.

This paper presents findings of my four-year empirical PhD thesis. With critical insights into the discrepancies and similarities in institutional policies and practices, together with individual academics’ agency in developing their expertise for internationalisation between two contexts, my study provides useful implications for more effective institutional capacity building policies, thus can be of strong interest to HE institutions, governments and researchers alike.