Emerald & HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

Winner's story

The 2021 winner of the Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards is Gabriel Brito Amorim who won for his research on a new (self) assessment matrix helps higher education institutions assess their internationalisation processes.

Dissertation title: The internationalization of higher education in Brazil: A proposal for a multidimensional (self)assessment matrix
Institution: Federal University of Goiás, Brazil

PhD obtained at: Federal University of Espírito Santo      

Internationalisation of higher education fosters institutional culture and values, impacting the overall higher education community and public at large. However, in Brazil, the internationalisation processes of higher education institutions (HEIs) are more tailored to attract government funds and favour HEIs in the Global North, resulting in a lack of a holistic approach. An award-winning piece of research now offers a (self) assessment matrix to steer Brazilian and global HEIs toward a more sustainable and comprehensive internationalisation plan.

The internationalisation of higher education institutions (HEIs) is becoming increasingly important due to the rising cross-border flows of knowledge, knowledge workers, and students. Internationalisation has risen to the top of the agenda for HEIs seeking to connect their organisation, students, and faculty to a rapidly globalising world. However, internationalisation is also a complex and multifaceted process that cannot be readily understood.

Although several programs were created in Brazil to establish “global educational institutions,” a closer look shows that these programs had only a minor impact on the real root of the issue. The programs, in fact, prompted HEIs to address only scattered or specialised areas, such as “language policies.”  Furthermore, several academics described the Brazilian HEI internationalization process as “passive,” “peripheral,” “reactive,” “acritical,” and “disarticulated.” This is because HEIs merely reacted to government calls and tailored their internationalisation plans to win funding. What’s more, Brazilian HEIs have more international collaboration agreements with HEIs in the Global North, highlighting the geopolitical competition of the Global North/South divide. The influence of such negative globalisation drives many Brazilian HEIs to follow global ideologies rather than developing their own comprehensive systems. As a result, self-reflection is the best way to transition from “competition” to “cooperation.”

To this end, Dr. Gabriel Brito Amorim, as part of his doctoral dissertation, designed a (self) assessment matrix to aid HEIs in assessing and planning their internationalisation strategies. In providing an analogy between this innovative assessment tool and the Global Positioning System (GPS), Dr. Amorim says, “With its technology and coordinates, the GPS guides us to reach our chosen destination. More importantly, we can choose our path to the destination. Likewise, the matrix is versatile enough to provide several possibilities, allowing HEIs to tailor their internationalization plans.” This groundbreaking innovation has received international recognition, including the 2021 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

The matrix was created using “development methodology,” which proffers a solution or prototype model based on an extensive literature review for solving a real problem. The research was divided into four phases: “Phase 1” involved preliminary investigation, in which qualitative and quantitative data were collected; “Phase 2” entailed theoretical embedding, which involved the construction of the matrix; “Phase 3” focused on empirical testing, which involved the pilot study of the matrix at the researcher's home university (Federal University of Espírito Santo—UFES); and “Phase 4” constituted documentation, analysis, and reflection, which provided a perspective on the instrument developed and the data it produced.

The (self) assessment matrix serves as a cohesive document that enables HEIs in identifying strengths and weaknesses and acting on them if needed. The matrix has 86 indicators spanning across three dimensions, three categories of analysis, and three suggested classifications, as follows:

  • Dimensions: Teaching, Research, and Outreach
  • Categories of analysis: Language Policies, Academic Mobility, and Internationalization at Home
  • Suggested classifications: Internationalised, Engaged, and Emerging

This multidimensional matrix acts as a compass for HEIs in Brazil and worldwide for defining directions for a more critical, sustainable, comprehensive, and contextualised internationalisation strategy.

With this revolutionary instrument, HEIs will be able to better understand the “why,” “what,” and “how” of assessing their internationalisation process in order to make more educated decisions. The breakthrough research sparked a major conversation on the internationalisation process as a whole. As a result, the matrix is now being adopted by Brazilian researchers to assess the internationalisation efforts of several HEIs.

Dr. Amorim has great expectations for the opportunities the matrix offers to effect meaningful change. He concludes, “Internationalization has absorbed the bulk of higher education funds. However, if HEIs use this instrument to assess the needs and wants of their community, public funds can be spent more effectively and equally across all university aspects. This will have a lasting impact on both the academic community and community at large.”

While there is still a long way to go, the winds of change have surely begun to blow!

infographic

Revisiting Internationalization: A Novel (Self) Assessment Matrix for Brazilian Higher Education Institutions

Internationalisation of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Brazil is more attuned to government funding and favours HEIs in the global north, resulting in a lack of a holistic approach.

Accessible version of the infographic copy

Revisiting Internationalization: A Novel (Self) Assessment Matrix for Brazilian Higher Education Institutions

Internationalisation of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Brazil is more attuned to government funding and favours HEIs in the Global North, resulting in a lack of a holistic approach

Experts describe the Brazilian HEI internationalisation process as...

  • Reactive
  • Peripheral
  • Disarticulated
  • Passive
  • Acritical

How can Brazilian HEIs gain a holistic view in order to develop and deploy more comprehensive, local, and sustainable internationalisation plans?

Construction of Amorim's (2020) multidimensional (self) assessment matrix Investigation model: development methodology

Phase 1: Preliminary investigation – Gathering qualitative and quantitative data

Phase 2: Theoretical embedding – Constructing the matrix

Phase 3: Empirical testing – Conducting a pilot study

Phase 4: Documentation and analysis – Providing an assessment and reflection of the matrix

The (self) assessment matrix – 86 indicators

Dimensions Teaching Research Outreach
Categories of analysis Language policies Academic mobility Internationalisation at home
Suggested classifications Internationalised Engaged Emerging
  • Helps HEIs make informed decisions by addressing the why, what, and how of internationalisation.
  • Successfully used by Brazilian researchers to assess HEI internationalisation.

The proposed matrix guides both Brazilian and global HEIs toward a more critical, sustainable, complete, and contextualised internationalisation plan.

Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award-winning research.

The internationalization of higher education in Brazil: A proposal for a multidimensional (self) assessment matrix

Gabriel Brito Amorim, UFG, Brazil; PhD obtained at UFES, Brazil | Advisor: Prof. Dr. Kyria Rebeca Neiva de Lima Finardi, UFES, Brazil