Vera Spangler

Postgraduate Research Student


I have completed a bilingual teacher degree in English and art in Germany and earned a master’s degree in educational anthropology in Denmark. Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in sociology in the UK. In my research, I explore how education, learning, and knowledge are negotiated and managed in everyday life in different contexts – across national and cultural boundaries. I use relational approaches to understand space, place, and time, taking special interest in creative, participatory methodology. Given my own experiences as an international student, I feel a deep investment in expanding the knowledge of experiences of other international students. 


University roles and responsibilities

  • Member of the 2023 PGR/ECR Conference Organising Committee
  • Member of the University Ethics Committee

    My qualifications

    European Teaching Qualification Primary Level
    University of Education, Freiburg, Germany
    MA in Anthropology of Education and Globalisation
    Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Affiliations and memberships

    British Association for International and Comparative Education
    Society for Research into Higher Education
    British Sociological Association
    Research with International Students
    Member of the ECR community group


    Research projects


    Spangler, V. & Adriansen, H.K. (2021) Space, place and internationalisation of higher education: Exploring everyday social practices in the ‘international’ classroom

    The aim of this paper is to use a spatial approach to tease out implicit understandings of what is perceived as the ‘good’ student, the ‘right’ pedagogies and ‘legitimate’ knowledge in higher education internationalisation practices. We do so by attending to the social practices in the ‘international’ classroom and explore how such practices are shaped and impacted by students' various backgrounds, educational paths, prior knowledges and at the same time by structural, cultural and national characteristics of the host institution and the lecturers teaching there. The paper combines both lecturers' and students' perspectives and details the complex relationality of people and places connected through movement and performances of internationalisation. Inspired by critical internationalisation studies, we demonstrate how everyday practices and discourses in the ‘international’ classroom produce and reproduce global inequalities; thereby, we show some of the uneven geographies of higher education internationalisation.

    Spangler, V. (2022) Home here and there: a spatial perspective on mobile experiences of ‘home’ among international students

    This paper examines the relationship between student mobility and identity by exploring the meaning of ‘home’ and homemaking processes among international students. It unpacks students’ complex web of relations within and between places, across space and in time, and illustrates how students’ family homes, familiar places and home society inform and shape the students’ existence and ‘becoming’ while they are abroad. Applying a spatial approach, this paper exhibits that international students’ involvement is a spatial homemaking process that connects home as sensory everyday practices and experiences and home as a place of origin. Both relationships in distance and proximity are necessary and important elements in practices of homemaking processes among international students. By examining space relationally, the narratives of the students show a significant refiguring of an embodied self, concurrently highlighting the relational construction of the identity of place. The empirical findings of this paper bring new dimensions, such as the spatial, geographical, sensory, and affective nature of mobile belongings, to the research on youth mobility and internationalisation of higher education.

    Adriansen, H.K.; Juul-Wiese, T.; Madsen, L.M.; Saarinen, T; Spangler, V. & Waters, J. (2022) Emplacing English as lingua franca in international higher education: A spatial perspective on linguistic diversity

    Within higher education, internationalisation is increasingly important for students and academics alike. In this context, English as the lingua franca has gained prominence. The ostensible ubiquity of English rests on a particular rendering of the language as unitary, fixed, and undifferentiated. In this paper, we challenge this notion of English and use a spatial approach to explore the multiplicity of Englishes on display within the higher education context. Increasingly, within higher education outside Anglophone countries, English Medium Instruction (EMI) is seen as a crucial indicator of internationalisation: the term ‘international programmes' is often used as a proxy for programmes taught in English. Hence, the aim of this paper is to explore the role of English in internationalisation of higher education, and to show how a spatial approach can illuminate what English means and how it is experienced in its multiple and shifting forms. We examine Danish higher education to explore the multiple usages of English amongst so-called ‘native' and ‘nonnative' speakers and show the spatial and hierarchical complexity of language. We suggest that a spatial perspective on English in the context of international higher education can help nuance debates about internationalisation and language in important ways – there is not one, but multiple forms of English, displayed at different times and in different places, with differing effects in the creation of spatial hierarchies.

    Spangler, V.; Madsen, L.M. & Adriansen, H.K. (2022) Unpacking the ‘international’ in international academic mobility

    Academic mobility is often perceived as an important part of the internationalisation of higher education. Universities increasingly put effort into attracting international academics as part of their internationalisation strategies. Yet, research within internationalisation has largely focused on international student mobility, internationalisation of the curriculum, and internationalisation as a policy field. International academics’ experiences of working and living in foreign countries are still under-researched. Drawing on qualitative interview data with 20 globally mobile academics, we aim to understand what and who the ‘international’ represents and how it is constructed in international academic mobility. Herein, we question and unravel the critical and challenging use of the terminology ‘international’. Our findings show how globally mobile scholars understand what it means to be an ‘international academic’ in different places. The empirical accounts bring to the forefront aspects of who counts as international and what it takes to be recognised as ‘being international’.

    Saarinen, T.; Etzkorn, N.; Spangler, V.; Adriansen, H.K.; Eiras, P. & Madsen; L.M. (2021) Approaching ”Meaningful” Internationalisation

    This paper explores five cases of internationalisation of higher education from Denmark, Finland and Germany through a lense of meaningfulness. Meaningful often refers to something that has significance, relevance, purpose, or value. Just like the ideas of a meaningful university, internationalisation of higher education is contested terrain. For the past decades, internationalisation has been a buzzword in university strategies. However, in an era with Brexit and neo-national tendencies in many European countries and the USA, internationalisation through mobility and language (English Medium Instruction) has come under pressure. Contradictory political signals regarding student mobility, language of instruction, and other ‘instruments’ of internationalisation call for critical research into how internationalisation is conducted and experienced by stakeholders. Across the five cases, we explore contemporary complexities of internationalisation and discuss what makes internationalisation meaningful, how and for whom. An observation that permeates all five cases is the relationality of meaningfulness of internationalisation.

    Waters, J.; Saarinen, T.; Adriansen, H.K.; Spangler, V.; Madsen, L.M. & Juul-Wiese, T. (2021) Problematising English as Lingua Franca in Higher Education Internationalisation

    This work-in-progress, we use a spatial perspective to explore ‘English’ in higher education internationalisation. Being geographically mobile and ‘international’ has become important for students and academics in higher education wherein English as a lingua franca has gained importance. Outside the Anglo-Saxon countries, offering English Medium Instruction (EMI) is often seen as a crucial indicator of internationalisation from an institutional perspective. This is to the extent where ‘international programmes’ come to mean programmes taught in English. Denmark is a case in point. We use Danish higher education as a case to explore the multiple usages of English amongst so-called native and non-native speakers. Linguistic diversity is not just about speaking multiple languages, but about speaking the ostensibly same language in different ways, in different ‘places’, and with different societal outcomes. The paper shows that the notion of English as lingua franca in higher education creates hierarchies of people and disciplines.

    Spangler, V. & Juul-Wiese, T. (2023) Exploring Geographical Imaginaries of International Student Teachers

    This chapter identifies how geographical imaginaries play into student teachers’ decision making of study and work abroad destinations, and explores how these predominantly collective, historic imaginaries are rooted in complex power relations, global hierarchies and postcolonialism. Drawing on two sets of data combining incoming and outgoing student mobility to and from Denmark and through the use of a mapping method, we explore student teachers’ geographical imaginaries, enclosing their preferences and perceptions of different places. This allows us to analyse students’ (implicit) geospatial associations and perceptions of where ‘good’ education and ‘proper’ knowledge come from. Exploring geographical imaginaries of international student teachers becomes of specific importance and interest as our findings highlight global power relations between the providers of ideas, knowledge and practices and the implementers in specific educational contexts. Hence, this chapter serves as a jumping-off point for further critical reflection on how higher education internationalisation and the internationalisation of teacher training (re-)produce unequal, historically shaped perceptions and an uneven spread of mobilised knowledge.

    Spangler, V. (2023) On positionalities in research with international students

    In this paper, I argue that if we want to further strengthen the current direction towards more innovative and critical methodological research designs in research with international students, we must engage more deeply and meaningfully with our own positionalities as researchers. In order to build a more accurate portrayal of our participants – international students, we must begin to acknowledge the dynamic multiplicity and situational understandings of positionalities and move away from monolithic and ascriptive presentation statements (e.g., nationality, age, gender). A critical appreciation of positionality helps us to develop a reflexivity that enhances the methodological strength of our research approaches and, considering the lack of nuance in many conceptions of international students, acquire information from and about them that (more) faithfully represent their experiences and worlds. This, hopefully, allows us to counter inequalities in practice and move away from positions of deficit and problematic discourses and assumptions.

    Adriansen, H.K. & Spangler, V. (2023) Reflecting on international students and researcher positionality

    When conducting research into higher education internationalisation, one is imbued in issues of positionality. A very common position in educational research is the insider positionality. An insider can be defined as somebody who is attached to or involved in the organisation or its social groups prior to commencing the study. In this chapter, however, we argue that this definition does not capture the dynamic aspect of the insider position. Importantly, positionality is negotiated and can shift in research situations with international students, for example, in an interview situation. We draw on our own empirical examples to illustrate how positionality is at stake in research with international students. We recommend critically reflecting on positionality during all phases of the research process, from planning to constructing the empirical material, and finally to the analysis and writing phases. Critically reflecting means noticing what happens during each phase, how we use our positionalities and how this influences the outcome of the research.

    Spangler, V., Madsen, L.M. & Adriansen, H.K. (2024) Travelling in time, between places, and jobs: exploring temporal dimensions of academics’ international trajectories

    Based on the assumption that mobility has both spatial and temporal dimensions, the aim of this paper is to bring forth the often-neglected temporal dimensions of international academic mobility. We explore how time and temporality plays a role in the decisions and lived lives of international academics by analysing their experiences and mobility trajectories. We do so by drawing on qualitative interviews with 21 international academics differing in age, nationality, and career level employed at three Danish universities. The analysis shows that for many of our participants, mobility had little to do with internationalisation of higher education rationales. Rather their mobility rationales were embedded in personal needs and wants, often related to securing permanence for the less privileged and related to experiences and adventure for the privileged. By unfolding the stories about which decisions, coincidence, and sacrifices are part of academic mobile life, we show how citizenship-based hierarchies lead to spatial and temporal inequalities. The paper concludes that for the international academics, places are positioned not only geographically but also temporally in hierarchical ways and that the individual mobility trajectories are differently entangled in a global-temporal orientation.