Academic Migration and Epistemological Value: Exploring the Experience of Migrant Academics in Portugal
1.1. Conceptualising Internationalisation of Higher Education
1.2. Academic Diasporas and Internationalisation of Higher Education
1.3. Academic Migration, Politics of Knowledge and Epistemic Injustice
1.4. Internationalisation of Portuguese Academia and the Presence of Migrant Scholars
3. Findings and Discussion
3.1. Pursuing an Academic Career in Portugal: Balancing the Promise of Scientific Growth with the Reality of Precariousness
I belong to a generation that has been severely impacted. This generation comes from scholarships and finishes with a doctoral degree but faces austerity measures and severe limitations on academic job applications.
3.2. Science over Salary
At that time [when she was pursuing her PhD], it was possible to have a partial scholarship from FCT; so, for my PhD scholarship, I continued working and even became a director at the institution I was in. After the post-doctorate and the transitional regulation (under DL no. 57/2016 in its current wording, institutions with doctoral fellows who work in public institutions or who are funded by public funds for more than three years, consecutive or interpolated, are supposed to open competitions to hire these researchers for a transition period of six years and then provide them with permanent contracts), I stayed here [her current HEI] because I couldn’t balance it out. I worked long hours and had a lot of responsibilities [at my organisation], and I wanted to do research but couldn’t balance it with the demanding job there. […] I already had a permanent job and came to this rush and unstable life of the six-year jobs with termination dates.
My reasons for staying [in Portugal and academia] are not even related to my career. There was a time when I seriously considered giving up, thinking that success [in academia] would never come. But then something else happened that motivated me to stay: the students.
My colleagues and I must easily work 60 h per week. We work too much… There are some weeks that are hectic, and sometimes there are no Sundays (…) It is good, but you must be careful… But because there is passion, I do not feel like it is an obligation… I do not have a proper boss, no one tells me what to do. There is a passion and desire to do the best possible. I have responsibilities, it is true, but no one forces me to do anything… If I want, I can do nothing today.
Let’s consider that there are universities in England and France, and they have their own indexed journals. These universities have their department journals, so a person who graduates from them publishes the same work I can do here with my colleagues but in an indexed journal. Therefore, the famous division of the world, between “North and South”, still exists… even in Europe, it exists.
3.3. Epistemological Challenges: Are Migrant Academics Inserted in Multicultural Contexts?
The institution shows the number of non-Portuguese researchers and international students in certain research centres. The university presents itself as having this many international students. Additionally, several disciplines are taught in English, specifically for Erasmus students. […] We [academics] are encouraged to provide subjects in English, so there are many incentives and ways of presenting ourselves as an international university that welcomes people from abroad. There are professorships to recruit foreign professors to be here for a year or a few months. There are prizes for internationalisation, hence all these incentives, practices, and ways to showcase that [we] favour internationalisation. [However] at the level of teaching staff […] it is not much more international than it used to be 10 or 20 years ago.
The assimilated people were those who, in Angola [and other former Portuguese colonies], managed to learn Portuguese [from Portugal] and work in a Portuguese context. In that sense, I feel assimilated because, within these assimilation dynamics, that was also a strategy to ignore the real origins of these people. So, I had to learn the language, write, and teach in Portuguese. However, I still come from another country, and I offer other things, another vision, another educational background, and another thinking structure. I consider myself assimilated because I have learned to respond to the demands of the Portuguese context, but that does not fully describe me… I do not feel like the other part [of me] is being valued.
There is also the issue of valorisation. Historical and cultural aspects always come into play regarding value [in academia]. For instance, Portugal colonised Brazil. Consider the following example: a person, even if they are Portuguese, who completed their undergraduate or doctoral studies in England, will likely be more valued than a Portuguese person pursuing their doctoral studies in Brazil. This clearly indicates that the historical and cultural relationship and the valuation of certain cultures over others will have an influence.
If we see wrong as being caused by an agent’s failure of perception, we will seek to change the agent. However, if we see the wrong in how such an agent is utilising a system, where an agent’s actions are just one part of that system, we will not only look at the actions of the individual but also at the whole system within which those actions take place (…). Is it best to correct the individual within the system, or are there ways of recalibrating the system so that it cannot be misused in this fashion?
From my educational background in Portugal, I have learned a lot from my teachers, who were also very important in shaping who I am today and taught me much about critical thinking. […] But, honestly, most of the debates we had on issues of race, history, colonialism, white supremacy, and even power […] and most of my discussions about epistemological decolonisation and epistemic racism, much of what I learned and internalised from the point of view of decolonisation of thinking, I took from my African and Brazilian colleagues. […] We educated ourselves through [de-colonial] literature that we accessed outside the academic walls.
Many Brazilian students say they are amazed that I am a professor here. They do not expect that. And when I hear [from Portuguese students]: “Professor, are you Brazilian?” […] Why? What is the matter? There are so many Brazilians with an academic career and many who have studied here. So, what would be the problem? And as a matter of fact, I have teaching responsibilities [as a researcher], but I am not a professor, I do not have a permanent contract. And this makes a big difference as I am not in the same situation as some of my colleagues [who are on tenure-track paths as professors].
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Conflicts of Interest
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|Pseudonym||Gender||Interview Round||Age||Birth Country||Career Position||Academic Field|
|Sofia||F||1st||46||Portugal||Senior Researcher||Social Sciences|
|Nuno||M||1st||43||Portugal||Senior Researcher||Natural Sciences|
|Pierre||M||2nd||39||France||Junior Researcher||Humanities and Arts|
|Clarisse||F||2nd||48||Italy||Senior Researcher||Humanities and Arts|
|Isabela||F||2nd||48||Brazil||Senior Researcher||Social Sciences|
|Lucas||M||2nd||43||Cape Verde||Junior Researcher||Social Sciences|
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Oliveira, T.; Nada, C.; Magalhães, A. Academic Migration and Epistemological Value: Exploring the Experience of Migrant Academics in Portugal. Educ. Sci. 2023, 13, 720. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070720
Oliveira T, Nada C, Magalhães A. Academic Migration and Epistemological Value: Exploring the Experience of Migrant Academics in Portugal. Education Sciences. 2023; 13(7):720. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070720Chicago/Turabian Style
Oliveira, Taísa, Cosmin Nada, and António Magalhães. 2023. "Academic Migration and Epistemological Value: Exploring the Experience of Migrant Academics in Portugal" Education Sciences 13, no. 7: 720. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13070720