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New hub for international education research

The International Education Research Network , or IERN, is a one-stop research portal for the international education community, supporting collaboration between academics, professional staff, governments and industry associations.

IERN’s recent launch at the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education, or APAIE, conference in Beijing caps off a series of enhancements to the network designed to encourage greater access and use within Asia.

“Australia and Asia have been long-term partners in international education,” said Chris Ziguras, vice-president of the International Education Association of Australia and an associate professor in the school of global, urban and social studies at RMIT University, Australia.

“We’re now hoping to build new regional connections in research, to ensure that policy and practice are informed by the latest international education research, and vice versa.”

A recent report prepared by IERN looked at hot topics in international education research. Among its findings, this report showed that 24% of international education research published between 2011 and 2013 had a focus on an Asian country or on Asia more broadly.

In parallel, the APAIE 2015 conference called for a new paradigm in engaging Asia-Pacific universities in a global context. In this light, the expanded IERN offers new opportunities for anyone with an interest in international education research in the region and beyond.

Development of IERN

Developed as an International Education Association of Australia, or IEAA, initiative with seed funding from the Australian government, IERN was designed to be an engagement platform for the international education research community in Australia and overseas. Following a range of background discussions and stakeholder consultations, IERN was initially launched in October 2011 at the Australian International Education Conference.

Open to all and with free membership, IERN’s key purposes are to inform the international education research agenda; provide a platform to connect researchers with policy-makers; and promote collaboration and provide ready access to key resources and publications.

Recognising the diversity in the international education research community, IERN seeks to support those who conduct, use, fund and advocate for research in its various forms across a range of educational sectors. IERN also aims to support people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, given the interdisciplinary nature of international education research.

Following its 2011 launch, IERN served its key objectives through the holding of research events in Australia and via its website, where it housed key resources and publications. It also sought to support research partnerships and collaboration, enabling IERN members to search for a research partner and publicise their research initiatives and projects.

However, a little over two years after its launch, a review of IERN activity identified a range of opportunities for enhancement. With 88% of its membership at that time located in Australia, IERN was not successfully engaging with the research community overseas.

Feedback also indicated that members were looking to access original content on the IERN website and that support from IERN to source and develop research collaboration was not a top priority.

IERN today

In light of this feedback, the IEAA has moved to re-develop the network to reinforce its effectiveness for Australian members and to expand its useability by an international audience. It has done so by re-visiting IERN’s three key objectives – to inform, to connect and to promote collaboration.

In terms of informing the research agenda, IERN launched a new series of Research Digests last June to present the findings of leading edge research topics on the internationalisation of education.

Readily available online, the digests sit alongside other research reports prepared in Australia and elsewhere. Most recently, analysis of data from the IDP Database of Research on International Education has informed an IERN report on key trends in international education research.

IERN has also refreshed its communication platforms to facilitate connections between members. Membership of a dedicated LinkedIn discussion group has shown a growth of more than 300% in the last year. Its members are also able to follow IERN on Twitter and subscribe to an online mailing list.

To foster future connections and to support collaboration, regular IERN events in Australia – including an International Research Roundtable and a Researchers’ Seminar – continue to present opportunities for members to connect in person.

Given the success of a 2014 IEAA event in Asia – a joint IEAA-APAIE Symposium on the Internationalisation of Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific – IERN will also now look to host a research event in Asia every two years, working in collaboration with a regional international education association.

A revised set of online resources also supports collaboration by providing guidance on how to find international education researchers as well as links to global research resources, including the widely respected IDP Database of Research on International Education.

In other developments, IERN is building connections with the research arms of other international education associations both in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. While a number of these associations (including IEAA) already serve together on the advisory board for the Journal of Studies in International Education, IERN is exploring new opportunities for collaboration and joint activity.

Impact

With a continued focus on international education in the region and a growing push to foster research collaboration with Asia, IERN is set to play a key role in promoting engagement between practitioners, policy-makers and international education researchers in Asia.

While its impact may be difficult to measure at this point, IERN hopes to facilitate greater intersection for mutual benefit between communities of international education researchers, practitioners and policy-makers. Perhaps the APAIE 2016 conference – to be held in Melbourne – will provide a timely opportunity to next review its success.

Douglas Proctor is a member of the International Education Association of Australia Research Committee and a PhD candidate in international higher education at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

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