Academic profession under university internationalization: A Case Study in Macau

Year: 2012

Author: Wang, Yan, Chia, Yeow-Tong, Sung, Min Chuan, Vong, Keang Leng

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Internationalization is a key buzzword in higher education today. It is no cliché to state that internationalization is transforming the face of higher education worldwide. Universities increasingly emphasize the international dimension of their missions and functions through various initiatives and strategies. In the Asian Pacific, the internationalization impetus is partly fueled by the desire to obtain world-class university status and to move up the university ranking tables.

Existing studies on internationalization have tended to focus on implementation and strategies of internationalization at the national and institutional levels. How internationalization has changed the academic profession, however, remains largely unexplored. In other words, there is a dearth of research that can provide an in-depth understanding of how internationalization has impacted not only the work but also the lives of university professors. Further, while research on internationalization of higher education has proliferated over the past decade, there has been a paucity of research on internationalization in Macau's higher education. We therefore aim to fill these gaps in the literature with our proposed qualitative case study to understand the contextualization of internationalization at one university in Macau as well as the impact of internationalization on professors at the university.

The case under study is University of Macau (UM) in the Macau SAR (special administrative region) of China, with a focus on its academic staff. Other participants include a number of administrative staff at the upper and middle management levels. There are two major types of data sources for the current study:

  • 1. Documents concerning the university's internationalization initiatives,
  • 2. Semi-structured individual interviews of the academic staff and administrators and follow-up interviews when necessary.

The university under study is experiencing recent intensified internationalization, which is evident in the upper management's vision for UM to become a world-class university and to raise its international ranking, with impact seen in the recruitment and promotion of the academic staff and the recent introduction of an "up or out" system similar to the tenure system of North America. Changes have also occurred to the curricula such as the implementation of general education courses and include the newly established Residential College and Honor College. The greatest impact on the academic staff is found in the research domain of their job responsibilities. Discussions will be conducted on issues such as institutional identity/characteristics within the context of internationalization, international knowledge flow, the tensions between the global and local, and etc.