What do we know about international education research – in Europe and elsewhere?

What do we know about international education research – in Europe and elsewhere?

Do you make decisions based on data? Does the latest research in international education guide your practice? Perhaps you are looking to identify an aspect of international education where your own research can make a unique contribution? Whatever the case, the highly regarded IDP Database of Research on International Education is likely to be one of your first ports of call

Managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research, the searchable database contains details of more than 13 300 books, articles, conference papers and reports on various aspects of international education from 1990 onwards. It has become recognised as a key resource for researchers, governments and international education practitioners around the world.

Before now, however, little analysis had been conducted on the contents of the IDP Database. As such, despite earlier attempts to map the state of international education research, little was known about the research landscape in this interdisciplinary field, nor of key trends over time.

Fortunately this has changed, with the recent release of a What’s hot in international education research? report and infographic. Developed by the International Education Research Network (IERN), this report presents a comprehensive analysis of research published between 2011 and 2013 and recorded in the IDP Database. It looks at recent trends and provides an insight into the state of international education research over the last three years.

Hot topics in international education research

What research is being undertaken and where? What is the focus of the research and where has it been published? What are the most common research methods?

Answers to each of these questions are contained in the recent IERN report, which presents an analysis of IDP Database data for records published in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The following breakdowns have been analysed, both at aggregate level (all years combined) and to identify year-on-year trends, where they are discernible:

  • Keywords/topics of research (including sector)
  • Country focus
  • Regional focus
  • Publication type
  • Research methods

As such, the report provides a range of insights into the state of international education research over the last three years.

One key finding from the report is that international education research is predominantly focused on the English-speaking world. At the country level, Australia, the UK, the USA and Canada collectively made up for over 50% of the research published in each of the years in question.

However, trends at a regional level paint a different picture, with a year-on-year drop in the total percentage of research focused on Oceania (perhaps reflecting the growing inclusion of international research in the IDP Database, rather than a marked decline in Australian and New Zealand output), but a year-on-year increase in the percentage focused on Europe (from 19.9% of all research in 2011 to 23.2% in 2013).

Looking in more detail at the data on Europe-focused research, an increasing majority is centred on the UK (from 8.6% of total research output in 2011, to 8.8% in 2012, to 11.0% in 2013), whilst the second most popular focus of research is Europe itself (3.8% of total research output in 2011, to 4.2% in 2012, to 3.4% in 2013).

Beyond the UK, no other individual country has greater than 1.3% of all research in any of the years in question, with France and Germany showing small drops over the three years, while Denmark and Spain have shown small increases. The Netherlands and Finland, meanwhile, have shown mixed performance with a tendency to increase, with research interest generally flat in Sweden and Ireland.

Further analysis of the full dataset at a regional level has not been undertaken, and data in the IDP Database (although increasingly comprehensive) is subject to a number of caveats. For example, the database has had comparatively strong coverage of Australian material for some time, despite the growing inclusion of international research. Similarly, only English language materials are referenced in the database, thereby potentially excluding a range of research output from Europe and elsewhere.

However, this initial report on research trends in international education sketches an important first picture of the research landscape for academics, practitioners and policy-makers. It was prepared by IERN as part of its objective to inform the research agenda and to promote collaboration between the different communities interested in international education research.

About the International Education Research Network

First launched in October 2011, the International Education Research Network (IERN) is designed to be a one-stop research engagement platform for the international education community in Australia and overseas. Its 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.

IERN serves these objectives through the publication of research digests and reports, and the holding of research events in Australia and in Asia.

Douglas Proctor – Research Committee member, International Education Association of Australia & PhD candidate, University of Melbourne, Australia