Academic self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) and their experiences

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Academic SIEs and their experiences

While much of the previous literature has focused on SIEs employed within MNCs, corporations are not the only organisations to feel the pressure of globalization or seek to leverage SIEs. In particular, higher education institutions are increasingly used as part of a national human resource development strategy to position the country within the international marketplace (Austin et al., 2014). Due to a variety of pressures, including lack of appropriately skilled academics in the host country and the need to internationalize the curriculum and research (Lauring & Selmer, 2015), universities are increasingly hiring academic expatriates. This section defines academic SIEs and identifies the key demographic trends and features that may distinguish academic SIEs from other SIEs. The rate of the academic expatriates in different countries depends on the treatment and the environment of work. In developing countries, the numbers of expatriates are high while in the developed countries it is low. Academic expatriates have the behaviour of evaluating the entire environment and social trend of their work while other SIEs mostly base themselves on the economic relations. The academic expatriates would hardly fit in the private industry while other SIEs would easily fit in the private industries.

In many countries over the world, higher education is expanding their systems of basic education in order to position their countries for the competitiveness of international marketplace (Austin et al., 2014). Thus many universities applied internationalisation as one of some strategies to be criteria of ranking through attracting retaining and supporting qualified academic staff. In reviewing literature review, many terms have been used in referring to academic mobility such as “international academics”, “foreign academics” or “academic migrants” (Trembath, 2016). Depending on a review of relevant literature, Trembath, Selmer, and Pinto (2016) posit some constraints of criteria for defining academic SIE including that the academic expatriate has moved his/her dominant place of residence across national borders, the employment is legal and time-bound, and the employment is based in a university and related to teaching or research. These different parts of this definition considerably involve in conceptualizing academic expatriates, however ‘time-bound’ aspect is important as expatriates employed on a tenure-track position would not be included. This potentially creates conceptual and theoretical issues. It also doesn’t fit with a common strategy of universities to hire expatriates for the explicit reason that they may have better CVs and provide more internationalisation to the curriculum and research compared to host country nationals who may be poorly trained. Despite, many researchers contributed in developing definitions of expatriate academic, however, defining this term still problematic due to the need to more clarity in indicating the nature of their experiences.

There are some of the reasons that make it important to study the academic expatriates. First, according to Selmer and Lauring (2011c) expatriates come with different diversity in the cultures which needs to be understood and well scouted before the contract. The understanding of the cross-culture suitability is important for development language skills, culture empathy and the attitudes towards new culture as well as level of personnel emotional stability. The study enables the foreign country to understand the successful nature of the experts to accept and adapt to new host culture and less effects on the differences (Selmer & Lauring, 2012b). Secondly, it helps to understand the technical ability of the person to work as an expatriate as argued by Arp, Hutchings, and A. Smith (2013). The idea ensures the establishments of the different loop holes as well as the gaps that are needed to be filled fire the hired individuals. Lastly, it helps to understand the need of the expatriates which may influence them to leave their mother countries to work on fixed contracts in foreign country. This idea is based on the understanding that successful repatriation strongly depend on the career outcome (Lauring & Selmer, 2015).

Expatriate academics have undergone different experiences in their way of work with majority of them experiencing fairness and respect in their work (Doherty, Richardson, & Thorn, 2013). With the need for the institution to keep and maintain the foreign employees, they provide the respect that makes the expatriates to feel comfortable in their work as well as ready to perform their work with the full confidence. Respect and fairness among the clients is an important factor that ensures exploitation of the full potential of an individual in performing at the workplace as argued out by Austin et al. (2014). In addition, they experience the highest level of security in caring out of their duties. As known insecurity issues within the countries that hire individuals for different actions especially among the Asian countries, insecurity becomes source fear and individuals’ are granted maximum security for their work (Andresen, Bergdolt, Margenfeld, & Dickmann, 2014).

In developing countries, expatriation of academic expatriates has become common with the countries need to upgrade their education level to the standard of the developed countries. It has even become expensive to the developing countries as most of the countries aim to increase the number of students to teachers’ ratio to facilitate the production of individuals with competitive qualifications and skills (Cerdin & Selmer, 2014). The high level of academic SIEs has brought to reduction in research work within the developing countries leading to low grading of the higher learning institutions within the developing countries (Andresen et al., 2014). The developing countries has developed problems in designing of the expatriate compensation packages as different countries have different challenges that the individuals face within the countries like hardship conditions (Austin et al., 2014). In Saudi Arabia, the expatriates are needed to facilitate the success of the higher learning institutions but the country poses challenges to expatriates as research work is somewhat discouraged (Smith & Abouammoh, 2013). The idea of limiting the research work leaves the expatriates with little ability to work in developing their research aspects out of the contracts. The country also gives little attention to allocating resources to expatriates which makes expatriates to be involved in the packages design for their rewards with regard to the little resources available (Austin et al., 2014).

In conclusion, there is an importance of studying SIEs with their experiences not ignoring the academic SIEs in the developing countries with attention given to Saudi Arabia. With the inability to come onto the concise definition of the academic SIEs construct then it offers the researchers the room to evaluate further what it actually mean. Also, understanding the changing trends and needs of the higher learning institutions is changing and the best ways to change the contract terms of the expatriates should be validated (Al Ariss & Crowley-Henry, 2013; Trembath et al., 2016). The idea of expatriate academics is complicated and other scholars should take the responsibility to improve and make it easily understood.

SIEs are individuals who initiate their own expatriation to obtain advantages in terms of the lucrative career opportunities available abroad caused by a shortage of professionals. Thus, SIEs are neither short-term travellers nor immigrants. In addition, there are many differences between SIEs and AEs principally in regard to motives to work internationally, level of position and education, individual characteristics, and adjustment to the host country. Moreover, there are different advantages of SIE employment in either employer or employee perspective. However, there can be also a number of disadvantages associated with self-initiates expatriation on both organisation and individuals. In general, the research on SIEs does not have a dominant theoretical framework but the push-pull model can be used to organise the prior research. The next section will provide an overview of the push-pull model.