Overseas academics in US ‘more satisfied with job recognition’

But international scholars are less satisfied than domestic peers with the influence they have in the workplace, finds study

June 22, 2018
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International academics in the US are significantly more satisfied with the recognition that they receive for their work than their domestic colleagues, but still feel that they lack the authority to make decisions about key aspects of their job, a recent study has found.

A survey of 3,940 international and domestic scholars across 49 US research universities found that foreign staff were less satisfied than their US counterparts “with the discretion and influence they had” to choose committees, the content of courses and the focus of their scholarly work.

For example, when it came to the satisfaction with their influence over the focus of research or scholarship work, international staff gave an average score of 4.2, compared with US academics’ average score of 4.37 (on a scale where 1 is very dissatisfied and 5 is very satisfied).

However, international faculty tended to be more satisfied with the recognition that they received for their work, scoring higher when it came to recognition for teaching efforts (3.33 versus 3.3), student advising (3.19 versus 3.1), scholarly or creative work (3.44 versus 3.42) and service contributions (3.27 versus 3.18).

The paper, “International Faculty Perceptions of Departmental Climate and Workplace Satisfaction”, says that this could either mean that the work of international scholars is objectively better rewarded and recognised by their colleagues or that overseas academics have low expectations of the levels of recognition that they anticipate they will receive from their colleagues for their work efforts.

The study adds that while satisfaction with recognition did not have a significant effect on the overall satisfaction of international faculty members, it “significantly and positively” affected the overall satisfaction of the US academics.

The research, which was co-authored by Ketevan Mamiseishvili, professor of higher education, and Donghun Lee, research assistant, both at the University of Arkansas, was based on data collected from a job satisfaction survey conducted by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education between 2011 and 2014.

Roger Seifert, professor of industrial relations and human resources management at the University of Wolverhampton Business School, said that “non-domestic based staff tend to have less say institutionally over most relevant decisions” at universities.

“There will be managerial bias against international colleagues since they will be perceived as being less integrated into both the institution” and the national system, he said.

Regarding the finding on recognition, he added that domestic academics are “generally disgruntled with the ways in which their performance is measured and have a healthy contempt for the matrix used to assess them in general”, whereas international colleagues tend to be “less cynical about both the management and the systems used to measure and control their performance”.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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