Introduction: Academics who take part in international exchange programmes gain invaluable experience, which can add to their students’ educational experience (Tremblay 2004). These programmes provide the opportunity for educators to share knowledge and ideas with different cultures and disseminate gained knowledge back to their home institute.
Aim: The aim of this study was to evaluate current international trends in the exchange of academic teachers in the field of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences and to identify factors that promote or deter academic mobility.
Method: A questionnaire containing 28 statements relating to academic mobility was posted or emailed to pharmacy academic staff at universities on all continents.
Results: Principal components analysis (PCA) yielded four factors, representing 50.1% total variance. These were a proactive attitude towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD), language and culture as barriers to mobility, personal and situational factors as barriers to mobility and potential knowledge gain as a motivation for mobility. Results suggest that academics who had worked abroad had a more proactive attitude towards CPD (t = 22.63, p = 0.009) perceived a greater potential knowledge gain from international academic experience (t = 24.61, p , 0.0001) and perceived lower language barriers (t = 3.49, p = 0.001) than staff who had not worked abroad. Other results suggest demographic factors were related to these factors.
Discussion: It is not possible from this study to ascertain whether these differences in attitudes and perceptions are motivating factors for academic staff to engage in international exchange programmes, or are a result of having worked abroad. If it is the former, staff could be encouraged to engage in mobility programmes by emphasising the benefits of professional development. If it is the latter, the potential knowledge gained from working in other countries could be highlighted. In addition, if language is seen as a barrier to working abroad, lessons in the foreign language could be provided. Longitudinal studies would clarify the direction of these relationships.