Higher Education Policy

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 149–166 | Cite as

Working Within the Aspiring Center: Professional Status and Mobilities Among Migrant Faculty in Singapore

  • Yasmin Y. OrtigaEmail author
  • Meng-Hsuan Chou
  • Gunjan Sondhi
  • Jue Wang
Original Article


This paper investigates the migration of Asia-born academics from traditional centers in the West to Singapore, a rapidly developing education hub in Southeast Asia. We argue that such movement can be seen as a form of quasi-return, where migrant faculty look for places where they can be “close enough” to aging parents and family, while working in an institution that is “good enough” to continue research work. This position leads to conflicting notions of social mobility, when defined in terms of professional prestige and status. While interviewees perceived their move to Singapore as a form of upward mobility when compared to colleagues within their home countries, they simultaneously worried about their downward mobility compared to peers who had remained in the West. Such perceptions shape their decision to leave Singapore in the future, reinforcing current university hierarchies, where institutions in the USA and Europe continue to dominate notions of academic prestige.


academic mobility return migration faculty retention Singapore Asia 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation, Singapore, under Grant SRIE 023. Any opinions, findings, conclusions and/or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Singapore National Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Alice and Peter TanNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme, School of Social SciencesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Faculty of the Arts and Social SciencesThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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