Dr Diep Nguyen’s PhD examined academics’ capacity for internationalisation

Diep Nguyen’s PhD, “Building academics’ capacity for internationalisation in Australian and Vietnamese universities,” was inspired by her personal experience teaching in internationalised programs as an academic in Vietnam. Here she explains why she chose to do her PhD at Deakin and how her supervisors helped make it a life-changing experience.

Describe your PhD project.

My research project investigated the policies and practices of building academics’ capacity for internationalisation of higher education which is the process of incorporating international or inter-cultural components into higher education institutions’ teaching, research, and service activities. The research explored similarities and differences in internationalisation discourse, structural conditions and individual agency across Australian and Vietnamese contexts, and pointed to the significant roles of these factors in shaping academics’ capacity for internationalisation.

I chose to study internationalisation because it was, and still is, a central focus in the agenda of universities in both Vietnam and Australia. However, the priorities and approaches are different between a country that has been known as a receiver of international education (Vietnam) and a country known as a leading provider of international education (Australia). I wanted to compare the two contexts to explore both similarities and differences.

I chose to look more specifically into capacity building for academics in internationalisation of higher education because academics are the principal actors in the implementation of internationalisation due to their direct engagement with internationalising student experiences and designing and delivering international education.

How did you become interested in this topic?

Before moving to Australia to undertake my PhD at Deakin, I taught at a university in Vietnam for nearly 10 years. Vietnam’s aspiration for international integration and corporation in education, my university’s active involvement in international partnerships for teaching and learning, along with my teaching experience in internationalisation-at-home programs (i.e. joint training and other English-Medium-Instruction programs) inspired me to conduct research in the field of internationalisation. When reading further around the topic, I became particularly interested in investigating capacity building for academic staff due to insufficient support available to them despite their important roles in the institutional internationalisation process.

Why did you decide to do your PhD at Deakin?

I chose Deakin for a number of reasons – Deakin’s reputation for the quality of education it provides, the quality of education research at Deakin and the reputation of Melbourne as a multicultural and liveable city were the initial factors shaping my intention to study at Deakin.

But more importantly, I was able to find two amazing supervisors, Professor Ly Tran and Professor Jill Blackmore from the School of Education. They are leading scholars in the fields of international education, and governance and leadership in higher education. They have done extensive work related to my topic and I strongly believed that their diverse expertise and high impact research would be valuable to my research.

I was then fortunate to be awarded a Deakin University International Graduate Research Scholarship, which endorsed my enrolment at Deakin and provided me with the meaningful financial support I needed to fully dedicate myself to research.

How was your experience with your supervisors?

My PhD candidature was a life-changing and memorable experience thanks to the enormous support and invaluable guidance of my wonderful supervisors. Ly and Jill not only guided me academically through all stages of my research but also supported me to overcome personal challenges. For me they are more than supervisors!

I did my Masters study at the Institute of Education in the UK and the University of Deusto in Spain. Although I had been familiar with different education systems in the world, completing my PhD research in Australia was still a big challenge, primarily due to the scope and extended duration of the study while being away from my home country. Maintaining my personal wellbeing during my candidature was really important. My supervisors played a critical role in helping me to get through this challenging time. They provided me with timely and valuable guidance and suggestions. Their constant encouragement gave me lots of confidence in pursuing my research. I treasured the opportunity to work with them and I am grateful for their ongoing support.

What was a highlight of your PhD?

One highlight of my PhD journey was the opportunity to engage with the international scholar community. During my candidature I had the chance to share and discuss the research findings at multiple international and domestic conferences and through publications. I felt that I was part of a community of researchers who were passionate about doing research in international education and creating an impact through their work.

What were you hoping to achieve with your research?

I was hoping that my research would make theoretical contributions to the field of international education while also providing practical recommendations for institutions to improve the policies and practices of capacity building for academics in internationalisation. As the literature suggests, academics often require institutional support in terms of resources and capability enhancement to effectively participate in internationalisation activities. I hope the recommendations from my research would provide institutions with the necessary strategies and tools to engage and support academics in their internationalisation process.

Now that you have completed your PhD what are your next steps and challenges?

The next phase for PhD graduates, myself included, is to find an answer to the question ‘what’s next?’. While completing a PhD research project is a significant achievement, the journey of establishing a career post-PhD is equally demanding and filled with challenges. I always see PhD completion as the beginning of a new phase of learning and growing, which I am very excited about. However, I believe that the knowledge and skills I have gained during the PhD journey have become invaluable assets that will enhance my prospects in my future career.

News 31 October 2023