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Researcher Spotlight: Mousumi Mukherjee

Dr. Mousumi Mukherjee serves as the Deputy Director of the International Institute for Higher Education Research and Capacity Building at O.P. Jindal Global University. With more than two decades of teaching and research experience in both India and Australia, she also holds the position of Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Next month, Dr. Mukherjee will take on the role of moderator for a forum discussing the internationalisation of higher education, as part of the Australia India Education Researcher Forums.

What are you working on right now? 
Currently, I am engaged in a collaborative research project funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). I am working with project partners, Dr. Shekhar Tokas from Ambedkar University, India and Dr. Venesser Fernandes from Monash University, Australia to examine the motivations and experiences of international students in India.

What gets you excited about work? 
I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities for international education and work. 

I am the first person in my extended family to get these chances, and the rarity of such opportunities for women from my background motivates me in my work. 

As the moderator for our upcoming forum on the internationalisation of higher education, why is this topic crucial for both countries?
While the Indian subcontinent has a rich history of international educational exchange, modern Indian higher education, established during British rule, has been predominantly inward-looking. Therefore, it is essential to closely observe and empirically document the contemporary trajectory of internationalisation of higher education in India, particularly in the context of neoliberal market reforms and the global pandemic's impact. 

Experts have emphasised the need to bring back the liberal humanist orientation of international higher education for educational and cultural exchange to promote public diplomacy and peace. International higher education has received extensive attention globally, particularly in Australia, while empirical research from India is scarce. Hence, this topic is of paramount importance for both countries.

Can you tell me more about your research collaboration history with Australia?
I began collaborating with Australian researchers on a book project titled Asia Pacific Education: Leadership, Governance and Administration, co-edited by Venesser Fernandes and Philip Wing Keung Chan from Monash University. This collaboration, which initially involved me contributing a chapter to the book, has since evolved. Currently, Professor Fernandes and I are co-supervising a doctoral student's research focused on strengths-based leadership practices among Tibetan refugee school leaders in India.

I have also collaborated with the Australia India Institute’s Dr. Surjeet Dhanji to research the experiences of stranded Indian students whose Australian visas expired while visiting home during the pandemic. The findings from this research are in the process of being published in a book, while a short article has already been published in the Melbourne Asia Review.

What does successful international research collaboration look like?
Just like any human relationship, relationships between collaborators can change over the course of a research project. Successful collaborations acknowledge and embrace differences, leading to mutual respect and solidarity. Conversely, collaborations fall apart when trust, solidarity, and ethical behaviour are lacking among partners.

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