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European intled professionals’ role shifting

Professionals across Europe are largely satisfied with their work, but are less motivated by salary levels, work-life balance and feeling valued by employers, EAIE research has shown.
March 29 2024
3 Min Read

International higher education professionals across Europe are largely satisfied with their work and share a strong sense of commitment to working in the field, but are less motivated by salary levels, work-life balance and feeling valued by their employers, research has shown.

Based on a survey of 2,817 individuals working in the international education sector from 46 EHEA countries, the detailed European Association for International Education barometer 2024 found that 80% of respondents expect to still be working in international higher education in the next three years.

Just 3% feel they will “definitely transition out of the field” in the same timeframe, it found.

However, four in 10 say they are unsatisfied with their salary/compensation, with the paper suggesting that the are less satisfied with their pay than with the personal satisfaction they derive they gain from work.

A further third of respondents said they were unsatisfied with their work-life balance and 25% said they were not happy with how they felt they were valued by their employers.

Like previous iterations of the report, respondents indicated that they are positive about the future and achieving both their institutions’, and to some extent their own career, goals.

While a third said they were very unsatisfied with how internationalisation responsibilities are organised at their institution and “had limited confidence in their leadership”, 56% said the internationalisation goals set by their institution/organisation were clearly defined.

A “convincing majority” of 79% said the goals were achievable.

However, respondents noted that if they are to reach those goals, more attention needs to be given to strengthening international/intercultural content in curricula, virtual internationalisation activities and both student and staff wellbeing.

Only three in 10 said a clear career trajectory existed in their role, while 40% indicating that a path is not visible, with a “notable 28%… ambivalent on this question”.

Laura E. Rumbley, director Knowledge Development and Research at the EAIE, noted that just over 80% of respondents indicated their jobs have changed over the last three years.

This has require more time and effort, new or different skills, or both, she told The PIE.

“Although we don’t have past data to compare this to, it provides a baseline of information for the here and now about the prevalence of change that professionals have been experiencing in their roles recently, and particularly – we’d wager – in the face of the challenges brought about by the pandemic, geopolitical instability, changing political realities within domestic national contexts, etc,” she said.

Most respondents said national and European-level authorities are influential in driving internationalisation goals, however researchers said that compared to previous data, that influence “may be waning”.

Some 41% that national policies, programs or initiatives had been positive for institutional internationalisation activities, with EU initiatives in recognition making procedures more efficient and transparent, particularly in Western Asia.

However, smaller percentages of respondents from the Netherlands (16%), the UK (20%) and Denmark (20%) report saw positive effects from national policies or initiatives.

When asked about the impact of European Universities Initiative only 1% of respondents noted any negative effects.

“It’s fascinating to see that so many respondents express a significant or moderate need for training or professional development”

The paper described the professional community as one that is “essentially optimistic in spirit, measured in its sense of recent progress in key areas and hungry for opportunities to improve practice and deliver results”.

Harnessing their energy and expertise is vital, it continued.

“It’s fascinating to see that so many respondents – 84%, and across all levels of experience – express a significant or moderate need for training or professional development in relation to their current role,” Rumbley added.

Some 63% indicated a level of urgency around ‘the debate or discussion about the impact of internationalisation’ at their workplace.

Photo: EAIE

A further 47% reported feeling very significant or significant pressure to produce evidence of impact in their roles, Rumbley continued.

“What quite surprised us is that they perceive in almost equal numbers that their institutions are concerned with producing impact in relation to reputation/rankings, alongside the core higher education concerns of student learning outcomes and research activities,” she explained.

At least 65% of respondents in Hungary, Czechia and Italy all pointed to the importance of reputation and rankings, while only 19% of respondents in the Netherlands said it was a key internationalisation impact.

“In all regions, ‘reputation or rankings’ was most frequently selected as a consideration in terms of delivering impact on internationalisation, except for in Western Europe, where the most frequently selected option to this question was ‘student learning outcomes’,” the report said.

“I’m not sure I would have anticipated that rankings would have featured so highly in the findings,” Rumbley told The PIE.

The ratio of respondents also indicating that the financial health of their institution is a consideration when it comes to delivering impact was also notable, she added.

“Back in the second edition of the Barometer, published in 2018, just 12% of respondents flagged financial benefits as a main goal of internationalisation for their institution.”

That percentage has now grown to 22% in the latest barometer.

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