Leadership in international education: leaders’ professional development needs and tensions

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This paper explores the professional development needs of leaders in response to emergent demands for leadership and competing pressures within the changing landscape of Australian international education. Framed within Bourdieu’s concepts of field and habitus, this study addresses five dimensions of professional development needs reported by leaders in international education: understanding of and skills to work across cultural differences, knowledge of and expertise to respond to policy changes and emergent trends, leadership and management skills targeted for internationalisation, networking and relationship management skills to work with increasingly diverse and ‘non-traditional’ stakeholders and research skills. However, the social field in which these leaders are functioning is causing tensions for their continuing professional development, including existing institutional governance and structures, financial constraints and the institutional culture that has not put internationalisation on the top of institutional development agenda. The study indicates a critical need for tackling obstacles and supporting sustainable situated professional learning for these leaders so as to enhance their capacities and impact as key players in international education. This study provides empirical and theoretical insights for institutions involved in international education to build effective policies and practices for enhancing professional development for the sustainable international education leadership.

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We would like to express our thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful feedback and suggestions that help us significantly improve this manuscript. We acknowledge the valuable contributions of the international education leader participants in this research. We are grateful to the leader-respondents in this research who share with us valuable insights into their professional development needs and practices.

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We acknowledge the funding support for this research from the Australian Research Council.

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Correspondence to Ly Thi Tran.

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Tran, L.T., Nghia, T.L.H. Leadership in international education: leaders’ professional development needs and tensions. High Educ (2020) doi:10.1007/s10734-019-00494-1

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  • International education
  • Professional development
  • Social field and habitus
  • Leaders’ needs
  • Tensions