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The professional lives of expatriate academics: Construct clarity and implications for expatriate management in higher education

Jodie-Lee Trembath (Department of Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 13 June 2016




The purpose of this paper is to provide clarity around the notion of the expatriate academic (EA), a construct that is increasingly essential to theories of expatriate management and higher education management. A review of the literature on academic mobility showed that terms such as “international academic” and “foreign faculty” provide highly variable definitions and results, while those papers that self-consciously used the term “EA” were more likely to provide consistency across definition and findings. This allowed for analysis of the characteristics of this unique group.


This study appropriates a meta-narrative approach to literature review, analysing 23 papers about EAs to develop a more comprehensive conceptualisation of this term and to identify key-related themes.


By reviewing 23 papers identifying with the term, a carefully constructed definition of the EA is provided, distinguishing EAs from other types of internationally mobile academic and demonstrating characteristics that EAs display in their professional lives. Recommendations are made to researchers, universities and EAs themselves for how these findings may affect the EA employment cycle. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


This is the first paper to aggregate the results of literature on EAs, putting forward a clear definition and description to aid future research and clarify the research stream.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the EURAM Conference 2015 in Poland.

The author wishes to especially thank Associate Professor Bruce Smyth for his unwavering support in the preparation of this paper. Further thanks go to the author’s PhD supervisor Associate Professor Inger Mewburn for her expert guidance with revisions, and reviewers from the EURAM Conference 2015 and the Journal of Global Mobility for their insightful feedback.


Trembath, J.-L. (2016), "The professional lives of expatriate academics: Construct clarity and implications for expatriate management in higher education", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 112-130.



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