Featuring research with Dr Shiona Chillas (University of St Andrews).
The number of foreign academics in the UK has been increasing over the last forty years, and currently comprises a third of UK’s academic profession (Lenihan and Witherspoon 2018). Existing research on migrant scholars, however, tends to focus on international careers and analyse mobility as a resource for career development and progression. Distinctively, our paper seeks to understand how the academic profession has responded to the influx of migrant scholars.
We draw on the concept of social closure in the sociology of professions, and on empirical data from 62 semi-structured interviews with foreign-born academics working in 13 British universities. Findings show that academia has developed three social closure strategies – integration, exclusion and subordination – to control the absorption of migrant academics. The profession enacts these strategies to subtly regulate access, work and intra-professional relationships, selectively incorporating foreign-born academics and maintaining the status quo.
The paper demonstrates nuances underlying the influx of migrant academics into the UK, suggesting that patterns of inclusion shape migrant scholars’ working lives.
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