Some surprising views on the internationalisation of Higher Education

Why institutions think internationalisation is important

Really interesting piece in the Chronicle by Francisco Marmolejo on the Internationalization of Higher Education.

Those of us involved in the internationalization of higher education rely on a series of assumptions that are often not supported by data or evidence. For instance, we believe that internationalization is not only positive but also very relevant as a key component of the changing landscape of higher education. When asked about why internationalization is important we are prepared to recite a list of its many benefits for the students, the faculty, the institution, and to society in general. Well, if we don’t defend our cause (and our jobs) well, who will do it? We assume that internationalization is good, but we often lack any data to support our assumptions. Also, we don’t think too much about the fact that there are different rationales as to why, how, and for which purposes an institution or, for that matter, a whole region, wants to engage in an internationalization effort. At least, that’s what new data from the International Association of Universities (IAU) shows.

And there are some really striking differences across regions:

Where significant regional differences exist, it is not in the lamenting for the lack of proper funds, or in the importance of internationalization, but on the main rationales for these widely agreed upon beliefs. Worldwide, the top five reasons for internationalizing an institution are, in order of importance, to improve student preparedness; internationalize the curriculum; enhance the international profile of the institution; strengthen research and knowledge production; and diversify its faculty and staff. However, when the information is analyzed by regions, interesting variations are found. For instance, both North America and Latin America give much more importance to international preparedness of students than Europe. Interestingly, institutions in Africa consider as the more important internationalization rationale, to strengthen research and knowledge production. The Middle East gives the highest importance equally to improving student preparedness and also strengthening research.

The most interesting points for me are about the attitudes of North American institutions which do not seem to be interested in internationalisation for the purpose of profile raising of the university or for extending “international cooperation and solidarity”. Which does raise some questions about their main motivations.

Overall, it’s a really interesting piece on what looks like a very informative piece of work from the IAU.


2 thoughts on “Some surprising views on the internationalisation of Higher Education

  1. I think that global comparisons – as in the IAU report – are very useful, in that they help us to recognise that we’re not all using the same paridigms for internationalisation. The concept means something different, depending on the context in which it is applied (and that applies institutionally too). There is indeed significant normative value attached to’internationalisation’, and that is perhaps why some insitutional stakeholders are suspicious of the term and do not engage fully with ‘internationalisation strategies’. Therefore, it is important to look within as to what internationalisation does/could mean in a particular institutional context – and that means collecting and analysing insitutional data (in all of its forms).

  2. ‘North America and Latin America give much more importance to international preparedness of students than Europe.’

    Perhaps to support the globalised export and production regimes of US big business? Or maybe to tap into local ideas and innovations ocurring in other cultures? This fits with the ‘glocalization’ versus ‘globalization’ debate sparked by Jeffrey Immelt of GE (in a HBR article earlier in the year).

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