Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)


An effective induction scheme is imperative for international staff.

People need to feel prepared for moving to a new country,  and once they are in post they need to be able to concentrate on their new job, rather than being distracted by logistics. This will ensure they settle in well and want to stay.

‘So, the things that I can very easily tell you what makes it easier. Yes, the institution having, sort of, set up procedures in terms of, we know you’re coming in, we know you’re not from here therefore here’s how you open a bank account, and we’ll go with you to help you do this. Here’s the paperwork you need, here’s… So, a lot of it’s on the institutional side but also, it’s also the people like willing to like… Oh, you’re new here, let me show you how this works, how that works. Here’s the doctor’s office, here’s the institutions that offer free language courses, not all of them do, some of them don’t even think about that. Why would you?

I’d have to say the university I worked at in Turkey was really good at [induction]. So, all first year teachers were provided an apartment if they wanted … the idea being in your first year you don’t need to find an apartment, so by the time you’re looking for an apartment, you’ll be settled in; you don’t have to do that immediately. They had maps of the neighbourhood waiting for us, they had signalled where the supermarkets were … after most of us had arrived they had a big dinner with those that had been here for years and those that had just arrived … they offered the evening language classes.’ (Female with mixed Angolan-Portuguese heritage)

In addition to practical support, many international ECRs benefit from the opportunity to speak to other international staff, as they will have a similar perspective and be in a position to share useful experiences.

The Equality Challenge Unit suggests the following approach to induction:

  • Send staff an induction pack, or direct them to suitable information on your website, when they are offered the job. This will help international staff to plan the move as soon as possible, and help them to feel prepared. It may also be useful for staff moving from elsewhere in the same country.
  • Make sure the induction pack covers the key areas of information staff require, without bombarding them with information. Basic information can be supplemented with links to further information, for example, online. For a good example of web-based resources, take a look at the University of Nottingham.
  • Consider providing staff with a named contact for any questions. This may be most useful if it is a dedicated adviser for international staff.

Current induction support tends to focus on the job and the institution, with far less emphasis on culture, childcare, and schooling. In addition to information on the specific role and institution, HEIs should consider providing material on:

  • visas and immigration
  • finances and tax
  • healthcare
  • personal security and emergency services
  • accommodation
  • childcare and schooling
  • culture and society
  • the local area
  • the higher education sector generally

Some of the most difficult problems encountered by international ECRs are visas and housing. HEI could help by ensuring specific support is available in these areas to staff as well as students. Although the rules on visas are beyond the HEI’s control, support in navigating the process is highly beneficial. For example, time off or flexible working to allow the ECR to deal with paperwork, attend appointments,  or make phone calls.

Adapted from material published by the Equality Challenge Unit.

This quote from the HEIM interviews shows what a difference an effective induction scheme can make to an international researcher:

‘The good support in UK was that the climate was very welcoming and people were very well prepared. So, I got an office introduction and all the infrastructure and technology, and also a lot of information. An introduction to the department, I was introduced to several members and their functions at the department, I got a lot of information about the school and university, including leisure possibilities such as sports and, very important, health and medical care – though lucky me I did not need it in the end.  Like, my first day at university, I was walking around at the department with a colleague, and she introduced me to everyone and explained where to go with technological problems and for university identity card and so on], or how to install an internet connection and everything. And this worked very well and it was important for me to get all the information. And it was very supportive that Y thought about persons who could be interesting for me regarding research topics, methodology, and everything, and introduced me to those persons. And… Well, yes, that made me feel quite comfortable and I benefited from this a lot. So, this was very important and I think for every researcher to come to another university, such a welcoming culture and also, I didn’t feel left alone or… This was really good.’ (Female, Austrian)