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Inequality and imbalance of professional development opportunities: The case of a higher educational institution in Southeast Asia

Preechaya Mongkolhutthi (Language Institute of Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 21 January 2019

Issue publication date: 18 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the professional development opportunities of a group of 16 “English as a foreign language” (EFL) lecturers at a Thai higher educational institution and the nature of the learning opportunities they engaged in.


The ethnographic research approach was employed to reveal the participants’ accesses to professional learning opportunities and their perception towards the opportunities. Observation, interview, written document and questionnaire were used to help capture the complexities of the issues investigated.


The data suggest varied degrees of participants’ engagement in learning activities, inside and outside the workplace. This group of lecturers relied more on formal than on informal professional development opportunities. Constraints in accessing professional development activities for the part-time lecturers and non-Thai lecturers were highly noticeable.

Research limitations/implications

These emerging findings provide an insight into the actual professional learning situation and call for greater awareness of the support of learning opportunities and better visibility of the part-time lecturers and expatriate lectures in the higher education system. With regard to the nature of ethnographic research, the implementation of the findings of this study should be done with awareness of the socio-cultural influences on participants’ beliefs and behaviours.


This is one of the first studies that academically highlights the existence of part-time and expatriate lecturers in the Asian higher educational context and voices these lecturers’ actual professional needs and their perceived obstacles.



Mongkolhutthi, P. (2019), "Inequality and imbalance of professional development opportunities: The case of a higher educational institution in Southeast Asia", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 452-465.



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