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The impact of globalisation processes and economic integration on the internationalisation of higher education has mainly been discussed with respect to students and their mobility to date. Less attention has been devoted to academics themselves as the producers of knowledge and providers of educational services, despite the fact that academic careers have long been associated with high levels of geographical mobility. Using unique data from a recent survey of about 10,000 Indian academics worldwide, this paper examines the drivers and dynamics of international academic mobility among one of the largest academic diasporas worldwide. Overall, we find a strong ‘path-dependency’ in academic career trajectories, indicating the importance of previous career steps in facilitating future career opportunities and mobility steps. For instance, excellent grades in high-school and/or international experience as a student seem to be pre-conditions for later academic employment abroad. Path-dependency is also embedded in geographical choices, as we were able to identify unique pathways to the prime international destinations in academia (US, UK), as well as a growing importance of social capital and networks in choosing rather newly emerging destinations. In addition, socio-economic background seems to be an important driver for early career steps but becomes rather irrelevant for future academic employment.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



Academic mobility, path-dependency, Indian higher education