Harder working, less satisfied – the foreign scholar’s lot?

Foreign academics working in the US are more productive than their American counterparts – but are also less satisfied with their work, a study has concluded.

December 5, 2011

The findings are detailed in a paper in the Journal of Higher Education, International Faculty: Experiences of Academic Life and Productivity in U.S. Universities, which measured productivity according to the number of research papers authored or co-authored that had been published in peer-reviewed journals over a five-year period.

It found that foreign-born academics with a foreign degree were the most productive. Foreign-born academics with a US degree were less productive than their peers with a foreign degree, however they were still more productive than US-born faculty.

However, the paper also says that foreign-born academics had a lower level of satisfaction with the intellectual challenge, level of responsibility and independence, contribution to society and salary and benefits than their American counterparts.

The research also highlights a greater gender imbalance among international faculty: while 26.5 per cent of US-born faculty are female, the figure falls to 25.7 per cent for foreign-born faculty with a US degree and 17.1 per cent for foreign-born faculty with a foreign degree.

The paper speculates that the higher productivity but lower satisfaction among academics from overseas could be due to differences in the rate of tenure – whereas 77.1 per cent of US faculty are tenured, just 70.5 per cent of foreign faculty are.

It adds that non-tenured academics tend to be more productive than their tenured peers.

The authors, Dongbin Kim, Lisa Wolf-Wendel and Susan B Twombly, all of the University of Kansas, conclude: “International scholars bring with them a diversity of perspectives and worldviews that potentially enrich the university in the global context.

“As international faculty are a growing proportion of academic hires, understanding the unique pattern of international faculty’s perception of academic life and their productivity will [have] significant implications for the larger system of US higher education in terms of the academic labour market, the pipeline of new scholars, and the education of undergraduates.”


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show