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Research student mobility generates widespread benefits

There are benefits for all stakeholders when postgraduate research students are mobile during their studies, new research reveals.

The international movement of postgraduate research students during their studies is viewed as increasingly important, but is often overlooked while more attention is paid to the mobility of coursework students.

A new research report, Postgraduate Research Student Mobility, published by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), presents findings from a study funded by the Australian Department of Education and Training which looked at the international mobility of postgraduate research students enrolled at Australian universities.

The report’s author, Dr Sarah Richardson, Principal Research Fellow in ACER’s Tertiary Education Research Program, says the research indicates that the value of mobility to research students, their supervisors, their institutions and to Australia more broadly is immense.

‘When postgraduate research students go overseas for part of their studies they gain access to invaluable resources, contacts with global experts and unique insights that significantly enhance both the quality of their research and their employment prospects,’ Dr Richardson says.

The ACER study incorporated focus groups with postgraduate research students at seven Australian universities, plus one focus group with university staff who are involved in supporting research students.

Dr Richardson notes that some students in the study were part of cotutelle arrangements in which their research studies were jointly supervised by an Australian and a foreign university. ‘For these students, arrangements and costs were taken care of. However students outside of such programs often have to fund and organise their overseas experience themselves.’

The report found that mobile research students valued meeting other scholars and exchanging ideas, learning how research is conducted in different environments, accessing different equipment and resources, engaging in face-to-face interactions with research participants and experiencing different realities and perspectives.

Dr Richardson says research students benefit from their international mobility, but also face challenges. ‘Their advice to other research students considering going overseas is to plan well ahead, persevere in overcoming obstacles and to be prepared for unexpected challenges and culture shock,’ Dr Richardson says.

Students were also asked about the advantages for their universities and the Australian Government in encouraging greater mobility among research students.

‘Students felt that supervisors gained access to opportunities for collaboration with colleagues in other countries and their universities gained the chance to build relationships with foreign institutions and to open up new markets to recruit students from overseas.’

Additionally, Dr Richardson notes, ‘Australia also gains kudos internationally as foreign researchers are impressed with the calibre of Australian research students. Overall, this means that Australian researchers gain expanded opportunities to engage in the international research arena.’ ■

Read the full report:
The Postgraduate Student Mobility report, written by Dr Sarah Richardson, is available at the ACER Research Repository.

RD

About the author

Dr Sarah Richardson is the Research Director of ACER India and leads educational research projects in a number of countries that focus on primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.

More [rd] articles by Sarah Richardson

View selected works of Sarah Richardson

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