Developing the Academic Careers of Foreign Scholars in Poland: The Case of Krakow

  • Published in:
    Central and Eastern European Migration Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2017, pp. 141-162
    DOI: 10.17467/ceemr.2017.13

    6 October 2016


    13 June 2017


    19 July 2017

    Views: 8110

This article discusses the professional careers of foreign scholars in Krakow, one of the leading academic centres in Poland and a regional ‘silicon valley’ (toutes proportions gardées). Central and Eastern Europe is understudied as an immigration region for highly skilled migrants (HSMs). To bridge this gap, we concentrate on three interrelated topics: (a) the perception of Polish science and its infrastructure; (b) careers of international staff employed in Polish academia; and (c) their perception of their achievements in Poland. Foreign scholars come to Poland for various reasons. Two of the most important are the cultural proximity between Poland and their country of origin, and research interests focused directly in Poland. Our findings show that Poland attracts first and foremost scholars with average scientific achievements. We discuss major problems they encounter (e.g., shortage of funds, uncomfortable office space, restricted access to books and papers) and their expectations of life in a semi-periphery country. The paper is mainly based on in-depth interviews with 23 foreign scholars working full time at four universities in Krakow and, as a secondary source, on the analysis of websites of these universities.

Keywords: Polish academic centres; foreign researchers; mobile academics; cross-border higher education; self-initiated expatriates

Introduction: migration of scholars1 and associated contexts

The special characteristics of academic migrants are such that they are often referred to as ‘highly skilled migrants’ (HSMs, see Yeoh and Yap 2008), ‘mobile academics’ (Dervin and Dirba 2008), ‘self-initiated expatriates’ (SIEs, see Loacker and Śliwa 2016), or a sub-section of the ‘creative class’ (Florida 2014). The process of migration is analysed most often within the sociology of science and technology (Monteiro and Keating 2009), the sociology of ethnicity (Tanyildiz 2013), interdisciplinary studies on cross-border education (Teichler 2015) or internationalisation (Luxon and Peelo 2009). Most studies focus on the flow of academics to developed Western countries (see Kim 2009; Kim 2010; Kreber and Hounsel 2014; Loacker and Śliwa 2016) or other countries with large-scale migration (Richardson and McKenna 2003; Richardson and Zikic 2007). We concentrate on Poland, traditionally a country of emigration rather than immigration. In 2012 the Polish Ministry of Science issued an unpublished report (SIoSW 2012), according to which 1 887 foreigners were employed full time in academic positions, constituting 1.9 per cent of all academics working in Poland.2 Our paper is focused on this relatively small number of migrants who decide to work in a semi-periphery country (Warczok 2016; Zarycki 2016). Our findings can help build sociological interpretations of academic mobility to culturally and economically similar destinations by HSMs.

Because of the small scale of this phenomenon both in absolute numbers and in comparison with other European countries (see IDEA Consult 2013), there is hardly any empirical literature on academic mobility to Poland (see, however, Kaczmarczyk and Okólski 2005; Mucha 2013; Piekut 2013; Mucha and Łuczaj 2014a, 2014b; Konieczna-Sałamatin 2015). Unlike the highly skilled immigration to Western (but also, for instance, to Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore) ‘global’ (see, e.g., Sassen 1991), ‘world’ (see, e.g., Hannerz 1996) or ‘creative’ (see, e.g., Landry and Bianchini 1991) cities, this kind of mobility is scarcely analysed by scholars with reference to Central and Eastern Europe.3 However, emigration has been the subject of both scholarly studies and research reports. Twenty years ago Janusz Hryniewicz, Bogdan Jałowiecki and Agnieszka Mync (1997) published on the ‘brain drain’ and emigration of Polish scholars (see also Jałowiecki and Gorzelak 2004). Izabela Wagner (2010, 2011) has written on ‘homing’ or return policies and return realities in the case of Polish scholars working abroad, ‘careers and mobility of Polish scientific elites’; Marta Łazarowicz-Kowalik (2011) (in a research report) wrote on intensions of foreign scholars in their potential employment in Poland. Young Polish emigrating scholars (mostly after Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004) have also been studied by foreign scholars (see, e.g., Ackers and Gill 2008). Our article aims to contribute to the closing of the gap regarding academic mobility to Poland. This gap is particularly interesting in the context of the debate on relations between various kinds of migration on the one hand, and economic, political and cultural modernisation, both in sending and in receiving countries, on the other. This debate takes place in both international (see, e.g., Sinatti and Horst 2015; Duquette-Rury 2016) and Polish (see, e.g., Okólski 2012; Piekut 2014) migration studies.

In this paper we enquire into the achievements of immigrant scholars, their opinions on the Polish academic system, their motivations for coming to Poland and the extent to which scientists immigrating to Krakow, a regional ‘silicon valley’,4 and one of the leading academic centres in Poland, are ‘transnational scholars’. We adopt a qualitative approach very popular in Western scholarship on academic mobility and academic careers (see Kreber and Hounsel 2014; Loacker and Śliwa 2016; Santos 2016). The paper is based mostly on in-depth interviews with 23 foreign scholars working full time at four universities in Krakow. It follows on from our exploration of the 2012 government database of foreigners in the Polish academic system, a 2016 analysis of university websites in this city and a 2016 analysis of the motivations of foreign scholars coming to Poland and how they adapt to life in Krakow.

Academic migrations as a subject of social research

The accelerated globalisation of recent decades and its consequences for the spatial mobility of millions of people has led to the widely held opinion that for the past 20 years international migrations have been more intensive than ever before. On the other hand, Marek Okólski believed 12 years ago that ‘intensity of flows en bloc, measured by relation of net migration to the number of inhabitants of the target countries, decreased (...); between 1975 and 1990, even the accumulated pool of migrants in Europe increased only slightly and in relation to the total number of immigrants registered on the globe it slightly decreased’ (Okólski 2004: 90; see also Czaika and de Haas 2014). However, these opinions and the links between spatial mobility and the reproduction of social inequalities have given rise, according to Thomas Faist (2013), to the ‘mobility turn’ in social sciences. What is new, according to Faist, in this ‘mobility turn’, ‘mobility perspective’ or ‘mobility paradigm’ is the trend towards a reconsideration of spatial mobility, its patterns and manifestations (Faist 2013; see also, earlier, Urry 2000, 2007). Two approaches characterise the new research paradigm: the ‘network society’ frame and the transnationality frame.

International migration flows have an internal social structure and stratification: they occur in various ethnic (or racial) groups, they have a strong gender dimension, and there are visible class inequalities within them. Internationally mobile scholars (scientists, academics and researchers) belong to a much larger and ambiguous category of highly skilled migrants (HSMs). There is a vast literature on the ‘emergence of new “global elites” or a “transnational capitalist class”, with unprecedented mobile and cosmopolitan lifestyles’ (see, e.g., Nowicka 2005; Favell, Feldblum and Smith 2006: 2). Managers, experts, physicians, engineers and university professors belong to this privileged upper end of the ladder. Some authors stress the distinction between HSMs and ‘expats’ – in terms of recruitment, institutional dependence, career course, lifestyle, etc. (see, e.g., van Riemsdijk, Basford and Burnham 2016). According to the quoted (and many other) authors, due to labour market conditions some migrants who are highly educated and skilled in their countries of origin have to take menial jobs in the destination countries. Moreover, the skilled and educated among the globally mobile include also students, nurses and medium-level employees, whom it would be difficult to describe as elites. They are better seen as ‘middling’ in class terms. Many young scholars, including the highly mobile ones, have no steady jobs and live ‘from grant to grant’, occupying precarious positions (see, e.g., Ackers and Gill 2008; Loacker and Śliwa 2016; Santos 2016). At the lower end of the ladder, there are unskilled or semi-skilled, underprivileged migrant labourers (see, e.g., Conradson and Latham 2005; Favell, Feldblum and Smith 2006; Faist 2013; Rutten and Verstappen 2014; Luthra and Platt 2016; van Riemsdijk et al. 2016).

Many scholars believe that cultural diversity, resulting to a large extent from immigration, particularly that of HSMs, contributes to the prosperity of the target countries or regions (including big cities) within them. In our previous work and in this article we use the metaphor of generalised ‘silicon valleys’ for regions with a concentration of high-tech industries and research universities. ‘Silicon valleys’ are based on creativity and innovation. According to Rafael Alarcon (1999: 1384–1385), one of the major important factors explaining the advantage of the (real and not metaphorical) California’s Silicon Valley over the Massachusetts Route 128 area in innovation and creativity is ‘the existence of a larger immigrant pool in Silicon Valley and the operation of an industrial system in this region that is more open to migrants’. Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini (1995: 23–25) present the opinion that the ‘settled immigrants’ (‘outsiders and insiders at the same time’) have, because of their cultural background, different ways of looking at problems and different priorities from the ‘natives’. This fact can give a creative impulse to a country, region or city, as, for the latter case, Saskia Sassen (1991: 32) also states. Richard Florida (2003: 11) says that a ‘large number of studies point to the role of immigrants in economic development’ (see also Damelang and Haas 2012: 362–392). Some countries, regions, and cities have introduced special programmes to encourage scientists and other talented people to settle in them (see, e.g., Findlay, Li, Jowett and Skeldon 1996; Yeoh and Yap 2008; Florida 2014; Krishna and Sha 2015). This does not mean that the presence of foreigners does not contribute to various problems and challenges. It does (see, e.g., Damelang and Haas 2012; Yeoh and Lam 2016; see also Mucha and Łuczaj 2016).

Let us summarise what, according to the literature, seems to be particularly important in scholars’ processes of spatial mobility. Migrating for them has been a permanent and significant aspect of the habitus of knowledge production or academic habitus. Its main features are the relatively independent and individual ways that migration can be organised, stimulated mainly by the ambition to achieve higher prestige and recognition.5 Economic motivations are important, but the intention is to get access to well-equipped laboratories and libraries, to the tacit aspect of knowledge production (Śliwa and Johansson 2015: 78; Luxon and Peelo 2009; Kreber and Hounsel 2014: 26), rather than to increase individual income. In many cases, mobility is not so much a matter of choice as a necessity. For professors moving to low-prestige universities in another country, the reasons to go may be the ‘limited available positions in their home countries or places of choice commensurate with their degrees’, ‘to seek career advancement through further research and international teaching experience, (…) to explore something new and different’ (Kim 2015: 607, 611; see also, e.g., Richmond 1994; Ivancheva and Gourova 2011; Mucha 2013; Mucha and Łuczaj 2014a; Bauder 2015; Morano-Foadi 2015). Sometimes both choice and necessity are equally important, as Bernadette Loacker and Martyna Śliwa (2016) propose to capture with the theoretical notion of the ‘mobile middle’ denoting those who are considered neither professional elites nor members of disadvantaged groups.

‘Polish science’6 in the eyes of domestic and foreign scholars

It is very difficult to scientifically assess the relative status of science and the academic system of a particular country. Using well-known rankings,7 however, we come to the conclusion that Polish universities do not belong to the top research and higher education institutions globally (the best two are ranked between four and five hundred). However, neither do Polish banks, manufacturing and other enterprises.8 Science and higher education in Poland do not compare negatively with economic institutions.

Currently there is a debate about the shape of Polish academia and necessary changes in the academic system. One of the main reasons is a perceived insufficient internationalisation of academia. This issue became public a couple of years ago and triggered numerous discussions in media, universities and other public places, as well as in academic publications (see, e.g., Nowak 2013). In 2017 it is also a matter of politics because the new (since autumn 2015) government has declared its willingness to change the model of mass education and create research universities similar to American ones. In this paper, we refer to ‘Polish science’ as opposed to other national science systems in respect of staff policies, funding, university programmes, academic degrees, openness to international cooperation, national traditions and many more characteristic features. This claim is grounded both in sociological theory (Burawoy 2016) and empirical research (Jepsen, Sun, Budhwar, Klehe, Krausert, Raghuram and Valcour 2014: 1319–1320; Teichler 2015: 56).

However, besides international university rankings (often based on simplistic performance metrics), there is ample evidence on the state of Polish science. The majority of research shows that Polish science is in a bad way. A report commissioned by the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011) reflects the subjective opinions of scholars (which can influence their willingness to work in Poland). The research targeted both Polish academics working abroad and foreign academics.9 The majority of foreign scholars (65 per cent) said that they would consider working in Poland in future (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 36). This percentage was even higher among those who already had some contact with Polish science (80 per cent). Nevertheless, foreign scholars mentioned short- rather than long-term stays.10 One Polish scholar currently working abroad suggested employing the ‘Korean’ model, where some labs act as a copy of American labs. The same research is being done simultaneously so scientists can split their time between Korea and the US (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 53). Foreign scholars were also asked to evaluate certain elements of the Polish academic system. Their task was to compare Polish institutions with foreign ones. They identified as worse or much worse than in other countries the visibility (65 per cent), funding (58 per cent) and prestige (52 per cent) of Polish scientific institutions (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 27). People who had never worked in Poland, nor cooperated with Polish teams, evaluated the visibility and prestige of Polish institutions even lower (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 35). ‘If the opinions of those who have not had any direct contacts with Poland are to be understood as manifestations of a stereotype, then these stereotypes are to our disadvantage’, concludes the author (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 31).

When asked what conditions were necessary for their work in Poland, one in four foreign respondents indicated ‘the environment and co-workers’. Material factors were less important and they constituted only 7 per cent of responses to that question (Łazarowicz-Kowalik 2011: 42). For some respondents, both foreign and Polish nationals, the location of universities mattered. One of them mentioned explicitly Krakow (beauty of the city, old and famous university).

The report on mobility in Polish science issued by the Ministry of Education in 200711 emphasised two additional factors that prevent scholars from working in Poland. First is a consequence of the widespread conviction that ‘mobility is an individual issue of an academic’ (MNiSW 2007: 92). For this reason, the number of administrative or legal staff and foreign exchange offices is not sufficient. Second, websites of Polish research institutions and universities are outdated and scarcely any offers are addressed to international partners (MNiSW 2007: 95).

In the following sections, we first present the methodology of our field research, then focus on those scholars who have decided to live and work full time in Poland, despite the obstacles and opinions discussed above. We have distinguished between short- and long-term migrants mainly because the motivation for each type of research stay is usually very different. Whereas long-term stays are inextricably linked to serious commitment (and probably preceded by getting information about the country), the decision to visit Poland for a short time can be influenced by various factors, including curiosity. The paper discusses several aspects of the academic careers of our respondents.


The main method utilised in this study is the qualitative in-depth interview. We intended to interview a comparable number of (a) male and female scholars and (b) representatives of natural and technical sciences and of humanities and social sciences. We conducted a content analysis (see Krippendorff 2004) of Krakow universities’ websites. This allowed us to identify particular scientists from different disciplines at different stages of their academic career. According to the subdivision of academics created by the European Commission, we were interested in PhD holders and other experienced academics (‘established researchers’, ‘leading researchers’), but not ‘first-stage researchers’ without a doctorate (Teichler 2015: 18).

We used the ‘onomastic method’. We looked first for non-Polish first names and surnames, and only later for other characteristics (for the detailed description of this method see Salentin 2014; Recchi 2015). On the basis of publicly accessible internet content, we identified 85 foreign scholars in Krakow (13 more than official statistics indicated, see SIoSW 2012). Eventually, we interviewed 23 scholars who worked full time in Krakow in 2015. All interviews except one were conducted in Polish but the interviewees had an option to choose English. This method is supported not only in the academic literature, but also by common sense and the results of the scrutiny justified it.13 As we have noted elsewhere (Mucha and Łuczaj 2016), the ethnic background of the scholars in our internet sample corresponded with nationwide percentages of foreign nationals, the vast majority being Eastern Europeans.14 Among our 23 informants, there were 15 male and 8 female scholars, 9 of whom came from Ukraine, with 3 from Italy, 2 each from Germany, France and Russia, and the remaining 5 from Armenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Vietnam. Thus, ‘Easterners’ (see Jepsen et al. 2014 for a similar typology) constitute two-thirds of our sample: Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Vietnamese. ‘Westerners’ were Italians, Germans and French. Our interviewees worked at four Krakow universities: Jagiellonian University (14), AGH University (7), University of Agriculture (1) and Pedagogical University (1). Those proportions are similar to those found both in official statistics and in the report from our content analysis of Krakow’s universities.

Of 23 respondents, 12 (only men) had a habilitation degree (6 in HS and 6 in ST).15 This degree is important because it enables professorial rank16 to be obtained with its various structural consequences. Their PhD degrees were, on average, granted 18 years before our study (between 3 and 38 years) and came mostly from the countries of origin (14 cases). Five of these scholars (only men) were older than 60, therefore at a later stage of their career, when academics’ mobility tends to decline. The mean age was 47 years (range between 38 and 66 years). This is a much higher mean than that of foreign scholars in Western countries (see, e.g., Bauder 2015: 86). When the study was conducted, they had been living in Poland for an average of 13.5 years (between 3 and 38 years).

Due to the very small number of Westerners, we do not actually compare the two regional categories (countries of origin) but let the reader know who has stated the opinion in question, if we can see a connection between the subject’s nationality and a particular quotation. Fifteen scholars represented humanities and social sciences (HS; they worked mostly at Jagiellonian University and Pedagogical University) and the remaining 8 represented the natural and technical sciences (ST; these worked mostly at AGH University and Agricultural University). Working in the fields of humanities as opposed to natural and technical sciences means different infrastructure requirements and a different social environment (individual work or team work).

Due to the small number of international scholars in Krakow, the most challenging issue was the anonymity and privacy of our informants. Quotations from the interviews therefore do not reveal nationality or gender.

Individual achievements: publications, conferences, projects

The course of an academic career and its results can be examined both from ‘bureaucratic’ and substantive points of view. In the strongly hierarchical Polish university system, moving up the ladder is very important for prestige but also for the chance to lead formal research teams and to participate in decision-making academic bodies. We did not look at the careers of our informants from an ‘objective’ point of view (e.g., actual number of publications in the high-impact journals, being keynote speakers at prestigious international conferences, etc.; see, e.g., Allison and Long 1990; Kim, Wolf-Wendel and Twombly 2011) but were interested in their own perception of their academic achievements in Poland.17 Krakow’s foreign scholars in general give quite modest accounts of their own academic accomplishments. The formal career ladder seems to be very important to them, even more so than their substantive research findings. One in three researchers (both Easterners and Westerners, both representatives of HS and ST) strongly stressed the degrees, positions and professorial titles they had gained, often without mentioning the substantive scholarly results that had led to the promotion. Getting their PhD, habilitation and title was of primary importance for them:

Moderator: What is your most significant scientific achievement?

INT 17: Completing my PhD thesis.

INT 1: Standard, my habilitation thesis.

What seems interesting in the light of mobile academic scholarship is the lack of institutional barriers to career success (familial or party ties, inbreeding) that are often emphasised in other Western countries (Gersick, Bartunek and Dutton 2000; Bozionelos 2014; Santos 2016). On the contrary, some Easterners pointed out that the rules for getting an academic promotion are clearer here than in their home countries.

Some interviewees, not always the youngest, mentioned that their most significant achievements would occur in the ‘future’ (INT 4). They already have a publication record in national journals, but their aim is to be published internationally. However, some were very proud of their teaching performance:

I familiarised students [of foreign philology] with literature that is rarely known even by the native speakers (INT 13),

of their organisational work

And we are getting, in the vast majority of cases, very positive feedback from people who attend our conferences, so I think I feel satisfied that we managed to organise it in a such a way (INT 20),

and of their academic results (interviewees cited different specific findings from their publications or number of patents).18 Interestingly, and reflecting in our opinion the current mood in the academic field, 6 scholars stressed their publications in prestigious journals and edited collections. The fact of this kind of publication was more important than the research findings.

We were interested in which countries and languages our interviewees publish in. Despite the fact that many of them maintain contacts with the sending academic communities,19 only one person (Easterner, HS) declared that he usually published in the home country. One third of interviewees (8 out of 23) published only in Poland. Some of them mentioned, however, that sometimes they also publish outside the country of current residence and that they preferred to publish in Poland where they live, but in English. Scholars from Krakow, though more often representatives of ST than HS, emphasised that influential publications are written in English:

I don’t remember when I published anything not in English (INT 2).

[I publish] usually in English-language and Polish nationwide journals but they are scored low, so hardly anyone publishes there (INT 18).

The second opinion may be slightly exaggerated, but it shows the general attitude to publishing in Poland as opposed to publishing abroad. For most of our informants, it was important to publish in English in international journals.

Before publication comes the stage of presenting the findings to the academic community at conferences. Like most active Polish scholars now, active foreign researchers in Krakow participate in academic conferences throughout the world. Those working in humanities, more often than those in ST, went to conferences in Central and Eastern Europe (usually to their countries of origin). This is understandable as their research topics are usually focused on this region.

Presenting papers at conferences is also related to earlier participation in research projects. Almost all members of our sample held teaching and research positions, so doing research was a significant part of their job description. In our study, we were interested not only in the individual projects financed by their university department, but mostly in larger projects, financed by those Polish national agencies, government institutions and agencies from other countries (for instance, the countries of origin) or international agencies such as the European Science Foundation. The overwhelming majority of the Krakow foreign scholars, like their Polish counterparts, did their research based only on very limited resources from their departments. They did not even apply for external sources. However, 5 people (most of them in ST) received Polish external grants (like that funded by the National Science Centre Poland or the National Centre for Research and Development); one of them was involved with two grants of this kind and led one of the projects. Four scholars participated in ministerial research projects from their countries of origin or countries where they were doing field work. Only one person, together with a team from his university (Westerner, HS), had applied for and received a research grant from a European agency. Based on what was clearly said in the interviews and what was suggested by our respondents, we conclude that they prefer to get involved in smaller projects and do not want to take the risk of applying for larger grants. This attitude is similar to the approach to the research projects characteristic of Polish scholars of the same generations. Equally interesting is the fact that many of our interviewees had never applied for an external research grant.20

The achievements of foreign scholars who work in Poland can be summarised in one simple word – they are, in their own opinion, ‘average’ by Polish standards, where ‘average’ applies not only to the results but also the expectations. One of the interviewees said genuinely:

Simply put, I’m not an outstanding scientist, whose works are in constant demand, but rather a modest worker in the field of science (INT 8).

Another interviewee explicitly noted that he did not expect that scientists in Poland would start aspiring to the Nobel Prizes. Nevertheless, he agreed with the statement that Poland was a good place to work, with interesting people. When asked about the position of Polish universities in the Shanghai Ranking, he replied that one should remember that there are tens of thousands of universities in the world, and the 350th place occupied by one of the Polish institutions ‘was not a disgrace’. Judging from everyday observation both of the Polish academic system and of political debate, one may conclude that this attitude, while not popular among Polish scholars and politicians, is not unusual in other Central European countries. For instance, the Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia) proudly announces on its main website that they are ‘once again among the top 700 universities in the world’.21 Poland, on the contrary, is trying to create a flagship, the ‘PAN-University’ on the basis of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), which is expected to be one of the 100 best universities in the world (PAP 2017).

To sum up, when asked about their individual scientific achievements our interviewees emphasised mainly academic degrees (which can be understood as tokens of recognition and professional prestige), their contribution to the development of their students (e.g., teaching outcomes) and community (e.g., organisational successes), creativity and innovation (e.g., patents, grants). Later we will discuss the separate issue of salaries. Due to the study’s method and focus, some objective and subjective dimensions of success were not investigated. Portuguese scientists interviewed by Gina Santos (2016: 68–9) mentioned knowledge acquisition and continuous learning, integrative lifestyle and autonomy (subjective dimensions) as well as job stability, collegiality and good interpersonal relations, political influence and power. The question of whether those factors can attract a scientist to Poland is still open. In the following we concentrate on the more measurable aspects of academic migration, such as working conditions: wages and funding, available infrastructure, administration and procedures, or interest in Polish culture, etc.

Working in Polish academia

Is Polish academia an ‘Alma Mater’, meaning ‘nourishing mother’, for immigrant scholars? Is it an institution that provides the basic resources required by a scientist? When we asked foreign scholars for their assessment of working conditions they usually expressed mixed feelings. One of the Easterners stated that

Poland is just like every other country with its pluses and minuses but, probably, there are more minuses than I initially expected (INT 20).

A Westerner said that the situation is better than ‘many people think’. Behind both quotes lies the belief that the situation of Polish science is actually bad. Our research shows that in general the opinions were rather unfavourable, which resonates with the findings of the Łazarowicz-Kowalik (2011) report cited above.

Many comments by our respondents were strongly related to the underfunding of Polish science. In the first place, scholars unambiguously pointed out that wages were low. According to the large international research project MORE2, the salary of a Polish researcher is 25–30 per cent (depending on their experience) of that of an equivalent colleague in the best-paying country (IDEA Consult 2013: 110).22 The corresponding percentages are 25–35 per cent for Hungary, 35–55 per cent for the Czech Republic, 55–70 per cent for Slovenia, and between 60 and 80 per cent for Germany (for other countries see IDEA Consult 2013). In our study, the Westerners and Easterners emphasised low wages accordingly. Krakow’s scholars were unambiguously saying that their wages are much lower than in Western Europe:

Wages are lower than one may expect. I doubt that anyone has a different opinion (INT 19).

When employees of a Polish university visited a Western country, their salary was sufficient to live for only a couple of days. One of our interviewees said that this should be compared in relative terms because life is cheaper here than in Western Europe. However, we believe, like our informants, that relative comparison of salaries (e.g. in terms of purchasing power parity) is not fully justified because a presence in the international community requires real interactions and foreign travel is often a part of their job description. Interviewees noted that first-hand information is the key here. Attending a conference or participating in a workshop is, apparently, vital to them. As one of our interviewees stated, The best tool for a theoretical physicist is a Boeing 707 (INT 2). Foreign scholars complained about science funding. According to this informant, lack of funds is an obstacle to the development of science, especially among young people. I [as a professor] still have some options (INT 2), he added. Another interviewee recalled a situation when he was visiting a major scientific centre and was shocked by the accommodation prices. He was grateful that he did not have to pay for a hotel because his American colleague had already paid for a double room and offered to share it with him. This situation is especially sad because our interviewee was not at entry level but was a recognised full professor.

Money itself – in the opinion of our interviewees and people surveyed by the FNP – is not the main factor that motivates scientists.23 As one of our informants explained,

it is clear that people at Jagiellonian University are not looking for wages but for the university itself. [Others] choose other schools such as University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS University)24 (INT 22).

This indication of private organisation helps us understand the gap in prestige between public and private institutions in Poland. The biggest and oldest schools in particular, such as the Jagiellonian University or the University of Warsaw, are highly respected here while private institutions are usually not. We can take the Perspektywy ranking as an example. In 2016, in the top 50 top universities (based on votes cast by academic staff) there were only 3 private institutions (ranked 33, 40 and 49 respectively).25 Nowadays, private institutions suffer from low prestige but this is not always related to quality of studies, at least when we take into account the academic staff (as measured in the same Perspektywy ranking) and the variety of programmes of study as well as the practical orientation of non-public institutions (considered desirable by students).

According to our respondents, the poor financial situation of scholars is due to the state (which supervises public universities) making insufficient investment in science. One scholar said that the shortest answer to the question about financial problems in Polish academia was ‘0.3’ – the share of Polish GDP invested in science. He stated that Finland invests 10 times more – and the effects were visible. In general, there is a large financial gap between the West and the former Eastern bloc. Surprisingly, a recent Nature article shows that growth in gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) is higher in Central European countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia) than in Western Europe (Katsnelson 2016: S2). This should not be considered an argument against the thesis expressed by Krakow’s scholars, but rather supports it. Growth in Central Europe is higher because the base expenditure was much lower. Economists like to call it the ‘low base effect’ (see, e.g., Piketty 2014). Although funding in academia is a complex issue (see, e.g., Altbach, Reisberg, Yudkevich, Androushchak and Pacheco 2012; Stephan 2015) that we are unable to discuss in detail here, we discuss below the subjective deprivation of economic resources – low wages and poor working conditions.

Some interviewees also complained about the grant system. The main objection was that it is like a lottery: you either get the prize or you don’t. You never know. There is a lot of risk and as much paperwork. This system, in the opinion of many of our interviewees, introduces new standards and kills the academic spirit. A representative of ST explains this briefly:

I’ve noticed that now you should be very goal-oriented. The most important thing is to be marketable, to be a person who is able to sell themselves and get funds. It is very, very hard to combine it with doing what you are really interested in (INT 3).

Another interviewee cited his own case when he applied for a grant and did not get it despite good reviews because the funds in the pool were simply insufficient. Others added that the grant system was short-time oriented and it did not take into account the willingness of people to make their professional position stable.

Another problem was infrastructure, a very poor aspect of the Polish academic system in the assessment of our interviewees. Naturally, an experimental physicist and a historian have different infrastructure needs. It is also important to distinguish between the individual office and the laboratories, libraries, etc. One of the most implacable critics of the system stated that it was really difficult to assess the level of scientific research in Poland because even ‘basic tools’ are unavailable here. Another Easterner explained that universities do not have to be so poorly equipped, even in other post-socialist countries. The interview with him took place in a relatively small office dedicated to the entire organisational unit. He said that in his country it was quite normal that two people occupied a bigger office and that was a big difference regarding comfort at work (INT 8).

The next recurring motive was libraries and their resources. Access to full-text databases is nowadays a must in academic work. Foreign scholars complained that they lacked good access to the latest articles and findings. Some secured access to contemporary publications as members of international or foreign scientific associations. Interestingly, some Easterners mentioned that in Russia many journals had been available online for a long time, even before the open access revolution occurred in the West. Most dissertations, books and articles can be accessed for free, more or less legally. This semi-anarchic situation is consistent with the views on bureaucracy discussed below. Many respondents dealt with a shortage of scientific books by visiting libraries in their countries of origin. Nevertheless, a majority of foreign scholars said that access to the books in Polish libraries was acceptable. An informant explained that one of the Northern American universities had a book he authored in its library. While he was convinced that this was not an outstanding book, he pointed out that there were libraries that collected almost every book. This is a standard in top global institutions but not, at least for now, in Poland. However, major Polish universities are entitled to receive a free copy of any book published in Poland.

There was another problem with Polish libraries – the very unfriendly way the system is organised. The Jagiellonian Library, Krakow’s largest, operates a complicated system of reservations instead of the open access that is standard in both Western and Eastern libraries. Unlike in Warsaw or Torun, open access has not been implemented in Krakow,26 which is why our respondent named the Jagiellonian a very ‘conservative’ library.

This may be related to the strict hierarchy that is clearly visible in Polish academia. In our respondent’s country of origin, relations were more informal. She finds the traditional Polish form of address, ‘Mister Professor(Panie Profesorze), awkward. During her dissertation viva – in her native language – she referred to professors in a Western style (‘Professor’), adding ‘Panie’ in Polish. In her study on scholars returning to Poland, Izabela Wagner (2011: 221) refers to very hierarchical and formal relations in Polish science as a significant barrier to creativity.

The most frequently recurring benchmark countries were Germany and the United States where, in the opinion of our interviewees, the administration is much more helpful, and procedures are more transparent. Other studies have shown that they are often pointed out as examples of good practice (Kreber and Hounsel 2014: 35). In contrast with Western universities, the administrative burden in Poland is left to the scientists because administrative staff do not support them sufficiently.27 One interviewee recalled his classmate, a professor in medical science in Eastern Europe, who told him that now his role in grant applications (apart from the scientific input) was limited to signing the papers. He was not involved in any paperwork. The university employs specialists who do the administrative work. In Poland, the standard is still quite different. For instance, every time a university hosts a group of foreigners, one of the interviewees complained, an academic teacher has to find an international bank account number (for administrative purposes) and inform the secretary. Another chore was continuous reporting. Many interviewees stated that they needed to complete a number of reports each year. Very often the same information (e.g., list of publications) was requested several times, each time in a slightly different format. Another nonsensical activity was submitting the same information electronically as well as in hard copy. Such situations occur – according to one of the foreign scholars – because the [real] head of the university is not the rector but the chief accountant or chancellor (INT 23).

Bureaucracy, as Max Weber once noted, and one of our interviewees recalled, was inevitable in every organisation. Various studies confirm that it is present in every country (Tahir 2010; Santos 2016). What seemed interesting to us was that many accounts in our study were discussing the evolution of the system in this regard. Easterners and Westerners view this shift very differently, however. Easterners emphasised that there was a constant positive development in Poland and it was becoming more like a Western country. This is, generally, a good thing, especially compared to countries such as Ukraine, where no such development has been observed until now, according to our interviewees. One Easterner told us the story of his compatriot, an assistant professor, whose salary from the university was enough to provide for a family for just half a month.

So for the second half of the month, to prevent his wife and children from dying of hunger, he was giving private lessons. He began on Saturday morning at eight o’clock, and ended on Sunday evening at eight (INT 8).

With such points of reference in mind, the perception of amelioration after the move to Poland is easily understandable.

Nevertheless, scholars from the Eastern European countries noted that this modernisation was related to the growth of administrative duties. We used to sign just two copies [of any document], now it is five (INT 2), said one. Another interviewee noted that even simple activities, such as applying for a foreign research visit, were becoming more complicated:

It used to be just one application – start date, end date, country, code of the discipline but this year one needs to fill out 10 pages, in English (INT 23).

These difficulties were mentioned more often by Easterners than by Westerners, who rather emphasised that the situation in Poland was in the middle of a positive process of improvement. For many Westerners, rigorous procedures seemed much more natural. They believed that it was one of the normal characteristics of modern society, even if they poked fun at some of their administrative duties.

Pull factors: Why come to Poland?

As we have seen, there were numerous problems within Polish academia from a foreigner’s viewpoint. In this context, an intriguing question arises: what can possibly motivate foreign scholars to come to Krakow to live and work? In the case of non-HSM populations, economic factors are perceived as the most important driver of migrant inflow, along with labour migration policy and societal acceptance of foreigners in the labour market (see, e.g., Sassen 2005; Górny, Grabowska-Lusińska, Lesińska and Okólski 2009; Parkins 2010).

In our research, the most common pull factor, described mainly by the Easterners, was not the economy, but ‘cultural similarity’ (or ‘the possibility of integration’, understood as various ties with the receiving society), another factor that recurs in migration studies (see, e.g., Wong-Rieger and Quintana 1987; Górny et al. 2009). Migrating scholars felt at home in Poland not only for personal reasons and language similarities (a possible barrier even in the case of migration between different English-speaking countries; see Kreber and Hounsel 2014: 22–29) but also because broadly understood cultural differences were not so great (see Mucha and Łuczaj 2017). For some of them, an additional pull factor is Poland itself. More than a third of our scholars (7 out of 23) were strongly interested in Polish culture and history and conducted research in this field. This is not an unusual motivation in Western studies (Kreber and Hounsel 2014: 25) but our data prove that the interest can also drive academics to Central European countries. None of those represented ST. If we take into account only the HS researchers interviewed, nearly half of them (7 out of 15) were interested in Polish culture, broadly understood. From their point of view, they have everything they need here – archives and source material. But they were also in the centre of the debate because

everyone, even in the most remote scientific centre in the English-speaking world, must follow what is happening in Poland (Westerner, INT 1).

Many of our respondents also emphasised that Krakow is a very nice place to live. Nevertheless, not everyone was so enthusiastic about Krakow as an academic centre. Some believed that its status as a global periphery prevented them from having better contacts with mainstream science unless one is not interested in Poland as such or wants to write for the Polish audience, which some preferred to do. Poland is an average country in terms of geopolitics but also scientific significance. Even Easterners who complained about the material conditions of Polish science less often than their Western counterparts were aware that even the biggest Polish academic centres had less potential than Moscow or Kiev, where it was not unusual to listen to Nobel Prize laureates. Poland, however, is not completely peripheral because it has a vibrant academic life. Our interviewees emphasised that internationally recognised scholars give guest lectures. Another mentioned Polish translations of major scientific texts available to undergraduate students which, in her opinion, were extremely helpful, and this was not the case in her own, rather small country. Moreover, similarly to the case of non-HSM migrants, moving to Poland enables scholars to gain higher social status in contrast to ‘middling’ migrants who move to global cities and often experience downward mobility (see discussion in Jaskulowski 2017). Interviewees also recalled the great achievements of Polish science that remained unknown elsewhere because they were published only in Polish.

To sum up, we can state that Poland is a country ‘between East and West’. It has a long history and rich culture that can be a research subject in itself. For many people, it is a good place to live because it is not too big, yet not too small. Its semi-peripheral status can be either a deterrent (for people who are used to living in global centres, whether Western or Eastern) or an important incentive (for people coming from smaller or less politically stable countries).

Transnational migrants? International scholars? Rooted cosmopolitans?

One of our research goals was to find out to what extent it is possible to analyse the self-identifications of the participants in our study in terms of ‘transnationalism’ or ‘transmigration’. In our analysis, we follow the classic literature (see, e.g., Hannerz 1996; Portes, Guarnizo and Landolt 1999; Nowicka 2005; Vertovec 2009), in understanding transnationality as a relatively stable network connecting the distant academic centres of different countries; systems of stable and dense interactions and relations between scholars; exchanges of ideas and constant physical mobility between these centres. In our opinion, ‘transnationalism’, ‘transmigrations’, ‘cosmopolitanism’ or even ‘internationalisation of social relations’28 can be stronger or weaker. It is stronger when it is closer to the ‘ideal types’ (in the Weberian sense) as presented in the classic literature. Transnationality (or ‘internationality’, in the more traditional vocabulary of our respondents) could also be more or less real and more or less ‘metaphorical’.

We asked our participants whether they considered themselves members of the international academic community, members of their national academic diaspora living in Poland, European scholars or Polish scholars of foreign origin. Most of the people who answered this question from the paragraph above were not transnational migrants but rather immigrants in the ‘traditional sense’ of leaving one country and settling in another. They are ‘solid’ or ‘fizzy’ rather than ‘liquid’ strangers (Dervin and Dirba 2008). The majority had studied in a college, or sometimes worked, in the country of origin, and then moved to Poland where they had been ever since (study visits or scholarships abroad, even those lasting a year, are not regarded as migration for the purposes of this paper). Only two scholars (both Easterners, ST) worked for a number of years in other foreign countries. Just one scholar in our sample (Easterner, HS) could be characterised as ‘transnational’ in the sense that she splits her time between Poland and another country (other than her country of origin), because her partner, also an academic, lives there:

My life in Krakow is related to work rather than family issues because my husband obviously lives in [Western European capital] and since it is not so far away, we can spend a lot of time together. These are usually work-related visits (INT 9).

There were also cases of scholars who commute to work in Poland from neighbouring countries but they do not meet the definition of ‘transnational migrant’ (related to a particular country), who is expected to spend a comparable level of time in each location (Górny et al. 2009: 65).

However, the majority of respondents consider themselves ‘international’ or at least ‘European’ scholars. Interestingly, even UK researchers (working in a far more prestigious country) do not identify themselves as UK academics (Kreber and Hounsel 2014) but rather as international or European on one hand, and of their country of origin on the other.

In our study the reasons for European identification were the following: science is international; they publish mostly in English; they are editors of international journals; and they have broad international contacts. One interview with a relatively young Westerner seems to reflect these ideas particularly well:

Where would I go having a choice? For me, the priority is neither Poland nor my country of origin, nor perhaps another country. The main factor for the choice would be: ‘a particular place’. If I get a job at a top university, say, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, then I would go. I want to see anybody who would not go if they are offered a job of a full professor there. It is for me irrelevant in which country (INT 11).

Three of our foreign respondents identified themselves as ‘Polish scholars’ (all of them Easterners, HS).29 Two major arguments were advanced – ‘they deal with Polish matters’ and ‘working conditions in Poland are better than at home’ – and they identified with the country of immigration. We wanted to learn whether the academic immigrants maintained scholarly contacts with their countries of origin after, in many cases, long years spent in Poland. Interestingly, nearly half of them (8 Easterners, ST) said that ‘definitely yes’ they maintained those contacts on a regular basis and 3 more (Easterners, two of them HS) had contacts but did not actually pursue them. Reasons for keeping up those contacts were: Erasmus faculty exchange initiated by them and other official inter-university agreements; supervising PhD students in the country of origin; colleagues doing the same kind of research; doing research on the country of origin; and common research project. Five respondents (with no clear pattern as regards age, gender, specialty or region of origin) said ‘definitely no’ to the question of such contacts, but no particular explanations were provided.

Trying to go deeper into the transmigration issue we asked where the respondents expected to be living 10 years from now. Nearly half of the sample declared that they would still be working in Poland. They were not planning any further spatial mobility. This observation differs from what Bauder (2015: 86) observed in young scholar mobility in Western countries, but, on the other hand, it supports his other idea that academic employment in public universities is relatively stable.

We regard the transmigration of our respondents as relatively weak and rather more metaphorical than real. Their social practices and ideologies are closer to what T. Deniz Erkman (2015) calls ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’: international ambitions based on the continuing role of national attachments. This is, perhaps, a consequence of the status of foreign scholars employed in Poland in international academia. From our internet study we know that, with a few notable exceptions, they are (see Mucha and Łuczaj 2016) rarely the most prominent scholars in their fields. If we measure number of citations and H-index, it turns out that they do not differ much from average Polish scientists.


Our findings show that Poland attracts first and foremost scholars of average scientific attainment. They tend to measure success mostly in terms of academic degrees and formal promotion. They are willing to publish abroad but most often, just as in the case of native Polish scholars, their papers are published in Poland. There is no doubt that shortage of financial resources makes it much harder (although not impossible) to publish in top international journals.

These people came here for various reasons. One of the most obvious is the cultural proximity of Poland to their country of origin. A separate group comprises people whose academic interests are focused directly on Poland or on Polish culture. They are not very interested in an expatriate community in the host country and the small number of international scholars in the place where they have settled seems to be a minor problem for them. Those scholars are aware that Poland is not at the centre of the academic world and the question is whether or not they can get funding that would allow them to participate in the international scientific community. Those who succeed are generally more satisfied in Poland and expressed their concerns less definitely. Sometimes the migration decision was related to interpersonal bonds, especially their private life (spouse, relatives). We have not addressed these issues here but discuss them in another study (see Mucha and Łuczaj 2017). What seems common among our interviewees is the modest level of their expectations. Thus the term ‘middling migrations’ seems to capture their experience. With minor exceptions, they wanted to just get on with their work. Incoming scholars were not transnational, ‘liquid’ academics, but they had decided to settle here or, in a couple of cases, commute to work from neighbouring countries. As we have discussed elsewhere (Mucha and Łuczaj 2016), this academic centre attracts rather experienced scholars. This may explain many similarities between these foreign scholars and a ‘typical’ Polish scholar. Incoming academics knew the requirements of the local Polish academic culture and felt they belonged here. What is special about our interviewees, as opposed to expatriates in Western receiving countries (see, e.g., Kreber and Hounsel 2014; Loacker and Śliwa 2016), is that foreign academics in Poland accept the peripheral position of Poland in the academic community and have their own strategies to deal with the barriers (e.g., they perceive it as ethically acceptable to download unauthorised versions of books and articles, or they seek cheap accommodation on their own, whenever university travel grants are insufficient).

The most visible, though not the only, problems were financial ones (salaries, infrastructure), and right now, the public image of Polish academia is poor. Our interviewees showed us how some structural and cultural issues make their life harder (administration, procedures). All these are embraced in the ongoing debate on Polish academia. The voice of expatriates may be an interesting argument in the reforms to come.


1 In this article, we do not distinguish between scholars, scientists, academics and researchers. Also, we do not initially distinguish between ‘science’ (in the sense of natural sciences) and ‘humanities and social sciences’. In due course, however, we will take advantage of this distinction.

2 We can compare this proportion to the proportion of foreign ‘teachers/lecturers’ in selected countries: 13 per cent in Switzerland, 8.9 per cent in the US, 5.9 per cent in the UK, and 4.3 per cent in Norway (but also in France, 2.8 per cent; Germany, 2.8 per cent; the Netherlands, 1.6 per cent; and Italy, 0.3 per cent) (Kaczmarczyk and Okólski 2005, Table 8), all in 2001.

3 To our knowledge there are no English-language empirical materials on the immigration of academics to this region (with the exception of the issue of return migration which is beyond the scope of this research).

4 According to the most prestigious 2015 ranking of institutions of higher education in Poland (the Perspektywy ranking), among the top 50 (out of 90 analysed) there are 10 institutions from Warsaw and 5 each from Krakow, Poznan and Wroclaw. Krakow’s Jagiellonian University is ranked top in the country, the AGH University is 6th, University of Technology is 38th, the University of Agriculture is 39th, the University of Economics is 47th and the Pedagogical University is ranked between 51st and 60th. In Krakow, there were 28 institutions of higher education in 2015, as well as 10 research institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and 10 other highly respected research institutes. Most of the high-tech companies operating in Poland have their headquarters in these cities. Krakow is the second Polish centre for start-ups after Warsaw, which is why we call these cities the Polish ‘silicon valleys’ (more details in Mucha and Łuczaj 2016; see also,32,komunikat,startkrkup_siedem_dni_f... [accessed: 13 April 2017]). We recognise that most university rankings, national and global, are simplistic and stereotyping but we have not found any more reliable measurement system.

5 However, there is a new body of literature on the self-initiated expatriate which mostly refers to managers. See, e.g., Beemann and Andresen (2010); Al Ariss, Koall, Özbilgin and Suutari (2012); Cao, Hirschi and Deller (2012); Selmer and Lauring (2012); Doherty, Richardson and Thorn (2013).

6 By ‘Polish science’ we mean research activities undertaken in Poland within the framework of the Polish legal system. We do not analyse here the issue of national (local) versus universal scientific research.

7 See, e.g., (accessed: 7 October 2013). See also endnote 4.

8 Forbes magazine publishes a list of the largest companies in the world. In 2015, the periodical listed only six Polish companies: PKO BP bank (743rd position), PGE energy company (778th), PZU insurance group (855th), PGNiG energy company (887), PKN Orlen oil company (1217) and KGHM copper company (1302); see,artykuly,194099,1,1.html (accessed: 18 April 2017).

9 The FNP invited 836 scientists to participate in the survey: Poles working abroad and foreign reviewers of the Foundation’s programmes (650 people); scholars designated by laureates of the FNP TEAM Programme (27); and Polish researchers from the National Institute of Health (159). The report is based on 160 questionnaires returned to the FNP. This report itself is not scientific in nature, but we do not know any other reliable source.

10 We employed the criterion utilised by many European grant agencies, for instance Polish National Science Centre and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, according to which research stays from one to six months are classified as ‘short’ and over six months as ‘long’.

11 (accessed: 9 October 2016).

12 See also Mucha and Łuczaj (2016, 2017).

13 Even during our interviews one of the informants acknowledged that this type of identification is commonly used in everyday life.

14 According to the Office for Foreigners (Urząd do Spraw Cudzoziemców), in 2014 Ukrainians possessed 31 per cent of all residence cards, Vietnamese 11 per cent, Russians 10 per cent, Belarusians 9 per cent, Armenians 4 per cent and Chinese 4 per cent. Poland is an attractive destination country for Ukrainians because of the spatial proximity and partly common history. Some of them are temporary workers in agriculture and construction, others in the cleaning sector. Vietnamese students (mostly at the AGH University) started to settle in Krakow in the 1960s. Armenia is a Caucasian country (about 2 700 km from Poland), but the tradition of Armenian settlement in Poland, including Krakow, has a very long history. The first settlers appeared here in the Middle Ages (Brzozowski and Pędziwiatr 2014; Gadowska, Spyra, Strzelichowski, Trzaska, Urban-Toczek, Witkowski and Ziębacz 2014: 1–47, 49, 55, 69).

15 HS – humanities and social sciences, ST – natural sciences and technology.

16 Granted by the President of Poland.

17 We did not interview their superiors, but we are planning to do that on the next stage of the research project.

18 We shall not give examples because, due to the very small sample, they would easily identify particular respondents.

19 This is not a common pattern, however. One of the Ukrainians explicitly told us that he did not cooperate with other Ukrainians or Russians because he could not see any benefits of such cooperation.

20 Another point is that in many cases it does not pay to apply for a grant. The time and effort (and luck) necessary to prepare a successful application seem to be too high in relation to the effect, including the grant salaries which are very low. Although the Polish National Science Centre recommends that salaries (before tax) should not exceed 9 000 PLN for a professor, 7 000 for an associate professor and 5 000 for a PhD (respectively the equivalent of 2 000, 1 600 and 1 150 EUR, which is a relative high salary in Poland), in many cases real salaries are much lower. If the grant is not a primary source of income (i.e. someone is employed by the university), the additional grant salary ranges from 1 500 to 5 000 PLN, depending on the type of grant (researcher’s experience). Source: (accessed: 13 February 2017).

21 (accessed: 9 September 2016).

22 Salaries in each country (in PPP) were compared with the maximum of the best-paying country in the covered sample. Amongst the best-paying countries, in different categories, are the US, Brazil, Switzerland, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium. Denmark pays the highest stipends for PhD candidates across countries (IDEA Consult 2013: 14).

23 This is consistent with opinions presented in the first section of this paper.

24 One of the leading private universities in Warsaw.

25 (accessed: 17 February 2017).

26 To a limited extent, it works, for instance, at the Main Library of the AGH University in Krakow.

27 Bureaucratic regimes in the countries of origin may influence the perception of academic bureaucracy in Poland. However, we have no data to discuss this issue in a more precise way.

28 Our respondents never referred to the concept of transmigration or transmigration but often used the term ‘internationalisation’.

29 Interestingly, two scholars in our sample who were born in Poland spent their childhood and education years abroad and came to Poland as foreigners do not belong to this category.


We thank the following students majoring in sociology at the AGH University in Krakow: Łukasz Gałczyński, Wojciech Kobylański, Kamila Molga, Ela Murias and Katrina Pawuś for conducting and transcribing the IDIs.


Conducting and transcribing IDIs were financed by a small research grant from the Faculty of Humanities, AGH University in Krakow.

Conflict of interest statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


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