Aisling Tiernan

Methods of Empirical Social Research

Research Associate


Institute of Sociology
Building: 1830
Room: 209
Eilfschornsteinstr. 7
​52062 Aachen


About me

Currently, I am a research associate at the Institute of Sociology for Chair of Methods of Empirical Social Research, held by Prof. Thomas Grund. My research focus is on international students’ navigation of immigration requirements in Europe. With over ten years of professional work experience at International Offices in the UK and Ireland, I obtained first-hand, practical knowledge of international students’ challenges while simultaneously observing a lack of academic research on students’ experiences, with respect to the visa navigation process. This absence of academic knowledge on administrative obstacles around visa application, registration and monitoring, and the inequalities these challenges produce within student populations, which I observed in my professional career, prompted me to conduct my own academic study. While simultaneously working full-time as a university manager, I completed my PhD at University of Sussex (thesis title: “Strange encounters in UK Higher Education: understanding the experiences of visa required international students”) in August 2023. Coming from an applied work environment in higher education, I am driven by the profound need for scientific studies to foster change and address injustices in the higher education sector, especially with regards to international students. At the same time, successfully navigating postgraduate studies in challenging circumstances myself, nurtured my ambition and passion to instigate change through an academic career.


Academic Positions

Graduate Recruitment Manager, University College Dublin, Ireland

The creation and execution of a robust graduate student recruitment strategy aimed at attracting, retaining, and nurturing a diverse and high-calibre student body.

03/2021 – 09/2022

Senior Regional Manager, University College Dublin, Ireland

In this strategic role, I managed multiple teams across different regions within UCD Global, all with the aim of advancing the university's global engagement strategy.

08/2016 – 03/2021

Visiting Scholar, Boston College, Boston, USA

Joined the Center for International Higher Education (CIHE), an opportunity that enabled me to engage with leading researchers in the field of international education while also advancing my PhD research.
09/2015 – 06/2016

Senior International Officer, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Led international student recruitment and partnership initiatives across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and West Africa, while extensively travelling for on-ground engagement.

06/2011 – 08/2014

Project Manager, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Managed the Retail Lab, a sustainability project focused on research and training, meeting key deliverables specified by the funding body.

06/2010 – 06/2011


Education Background

PhD, Sociology of Higher Education

University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom

Title of thesis: Strange encounters in UK Higher Education: understanding the experiences of visa required international students

Completed 25.08.2023

Master of Business Studies, Management and Organisation Studies

Michael Smurfit Business School, University College Dublin, Ireland

Master’s thesis title: C’est Chic Non?
Modules: Research Methods, Project Management, Managing Change, Organisational Theory, Organisational Behaviour and Work, Business Policy and Transnational Management, Understanding Media in Business and Administration, Employment Law.

Completed Master of Business Studies Summer School at Reims Management School, France

Completed 01.08.2007

BA, Economics and Psychology

University College Cork, Ireland

Modules: Quantitative Methods, Survey Methods, Applied Business Economics, Financial Markets and Institutions, Human Resource Economics, Corporate Strategy and Organisational Economics, Human Computer Interaction: Design and Evaluation

Completed 01.05.2006


Papers & Presentation

2019: Student visas: technologies of control? Conference paper at Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE), Newport, Wales, UK

2019: From application through to accommodation, choosing Ireland for postgraduate study. Presentation at International Exhibition & Conference on Higher Education (IECHE), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

2018: Jumpstart your career with Irish Higher Education. Presentation at BMI-Gulf International Schools Counsellor Workshop, Dubai, UAE

2017: Changing Political Environments in the UK, written article in EAIE Forum magazine

2016: Surviving the Student Visa System: A Study of International Student Agency in UK Higher Education. A guest lecture at the CIHE, Boston College, Boston, USA

2014: The Internationalisation of Higher Education: Developing Theoretical Perspectives, British Education Research Association (BERA) Conference paper, London, UK

2014: Exploring Intercultural Awareness in Higher Education, King’s Learning Institute 8th Excellence in Teaching Conference Paper, King’s College London, UK

2013: Art and Design in UK Higher Education. Presentation at the British Council Education UK Postgraduate Exhibition, Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria


Professional affiliations

Member of the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE)