Although faculty members are regarded as one of the main agents of internationalization in higher education (IHE), research has focused on the upper levels of analysis (e.g. country or educational institution) rather than the individual. The purpose of this paper is to draw from social exchange theory (SET) to examine how the perceptions of costs and expected rewards affect faculty members’ choices of international activities.Design/methodology/approachThis qualitative study adopted as main methods a review of the literature on IHE and in-depth interviews based on a semi-structured script with an international sample. A sample of 16 researches was selected for interview using the snowball technique of sample selection.FindingsThe authors verified that faculty may seek internationalization in search of job opportunities, greater social approval, greater autonomy and greater security. On the other hand, temporal, monetary, psychological and physical costs discourage faculty members from seeking international insertion. Based on these tradeoffs, our findings suggest that although the basic tenets of SET do apply, the theory does not explicitly address two issues: the fact that costs and rewards are intricately related, and the apparent mismatch between (short-term) costs and (long-term) expected rewards.Originality/valueThis study contributes to the IHE literature by highlighting the crucial role of faculty – that is, the level of analysis of the individual – which has been under-researched and by setting out the reasoning that supports the decision of faculty members to seek (higher) international insertion. Furthermore, this study extends SET as a plausible explanation for the self-internationalization decision by scholars.
International Journal of Educational Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 12, 2020
Keywords: Social exchange theory; International education; Internationalization of higher education; Faculty internationalization; Internationalization in higher education