Indian lecturers ‘singled out for jobs’ at UK universities, study finds

However, success of Indian academics in the UK may be under threat as a result of universities’ focus on teaching excellence

November 9, 2015
Indian science professor
Source: iStock

Indian academics are “singled out for jobs over other candidates" partly due to their willingness to “play the game” of prioritising research over teaching, according to a recent study.

A survey of 32 Indian lecturers and senior lecturers working at research-intensive UK universities in science and engineering departments, which recruit high numbers of international staff, found that “cultural, social and domestic capital” can put Indian academics in a more favourable position than home-grown talent.

However, the report from Dulini Fernando, assistant professor at Warwick Business School, and Laurie Cohen, professor at Nottingham University Business School, argued that these academics’ success may not continue as a greater emphasis is placed on teaching and the student experience at UK universities.

Dr Fernando said: “The Indian academics in our study used their valuable social connections to India and important cultural knowledge to obtain highly prized symbolic capital in the form of research partnerships with leading academics in the West, thus challenging the assertion that migrants’ networks and resources do not facilitate upward career mobility.

“These findings show ‘ethnic capital’ advantages such as cultural knowledge and networks can be used to move up the career ladder.”

She added that the Indian academics surveyed were comfortable with “rules which require academics to prioritise research over everything else”. She attributed this quality to “single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, influenced by their early experiences of overcoming challenging circumstances and growing up in a society with limited resources.

However, the study – “Exploring career advantages of highly skilled migrants: a study of Indian academics in the UK” – found that the respondents were “hazy about the future” because of the fact that universities are starting to place more emphasis on teaching.

“It is notable that a number of respondents saw themselves as less desirable teachers in comparison to their home colleagues. This is a serious concern because UK higher education is still changing,” the report stated.

“In the light of our findings we suggest that there might be a need for training to address what appears to be a significant gap in certain high flyers’ academic portfolios.”

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