It’s not about the money: real international impact

Genuinely international- Going Global 2014

Universities have had an international outlook since the beginning. Whilst some aspects of internationalisation have moved on since the middle ages some principles remain clear. Including the need to look beyond income generation as a motive. As part of Going Global 2014, the British Council’s international HE conference, I’m involved in a workshop session on “Internationalisation – practice and rationales”:

 

The workshop will start with an outline of the key trends in internationalisation and two reviews of international strategy at a university level. The primary activity during the workshop will be a Cafe Scientifique. Workshop attendees will participate in a range of deep-dive explorations around key themes in internationalisation bought to life though practitioner led discussion. Topics for roundtable discussion will be drawn from topics including: partnership development, joint initiatives, online learning, student recruitment, communication strategy, liaison offices, regional specialisation and diverse forms of transnational education.

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Each of these discussions will begin with a description of an internationalisation practice at a university along with the strategic rationale for that activity. From this starting point, an interactive discussion can explore this practice in a broader context.

Participants in this workshop will learn about diverse approaches to internationalisation and the rationale for their use. Through interactive activities you will be able to explore options around your own international strategy. Furthermore, though dialogue with practitioners from the global South, North, East and West, you will gain insight into some of the social, cultural, geographic and economic drivers that shape internationalisation strategies the world over.

Whilst the workshop format is novel for me the issues are really pertinent as the University of Nottingham has been at the forefront of international activity for decades and has grown the activity to the point where we have over 9,000 international students at our campus in the UK, nearly 11,000 students studying at our campuses in Malaysia and China and over 20% of UK-based students engaged in some form of mobility.

We have many international staff, aspects of the curriculum are highly internationalized, we are members of international networks and have many international research and knowledge transfer partnerships as well as a range of focused international partnerships covering articulations and in country delivery as well as capacity development.

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University of Nottingham Ningbo china

A genuinely internationalized university brings huge benefits for its home country as well as those in which it operates. It is essential to be clear about motivations and objectives though. Whilst some governments may see both economic and soft power benefits from exporting HE and others may welcome incoming universities’ contributions to growth and capacity building, the impact of universities’ international activities is complex and multi-faceted and the practicalities of delivery are hugely challenging.

Establishing an overseas campus is not straightforward. Challenges range from building the infrastructure to restructuring institutional and local governance. Legal issues, financial arrangements and developing local management can take time and significant effort, as can coming to terms with an entirely new academic, political and cultural framework.

We have built close relationships based on trust and taken the long-term view with our partners. Major new opportunities in teaching, student exchanges and research collaboration have hugely enriched Nottingham’s environment and ethos; our campuses in Asia confer great benefits in terms of the student experience, and this can be equally transformative for students from the UK who spend time studying in China and Malaysia.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

To leverage the full benefit of an international campus, though, an institution must have a strategy that goes beyond thinking about money. The management input required is high, and there are inevitably opportunity costs.

The investment is substantial, but it is worth it for a university committed to an international vision that goes beyond generating income from overseas student fees. Such a global footprint therefore has real impact for the institution, its students, staff and stakeholders as well as for the governments and society at home and in the countries with which it is deeply engaged. This real and comprehensive international impact though is therefore about much more than just the money.

As part of this session therefore I will be hoping to look at these issues of genuine internationalisation, the challenges faced and the real and lasting impact a committed and fully engaged internationally-focused university can have across all levels, from student to government.

If you are coming to Going Global I hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler. If you aren’t then I can only apologise for reminding you.

(#GoingGlobal2014 is the hashtag for all the excitement of conference attendance from afar)

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More interest in branch campuses

Immigration constraints prompt overseas interests

Out-law.com has an interesting piece on institutional ambitions overseas:

In research carried out by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, 67% of surveyed universities said that Government policy on immigration and fees made them more likely to establish an overseas presence.
The internationalisation of higher education is not, of course, a new phenomenon – 80% of universities surveyed already have an international presence – but the pace of internationalisation is accelerating, driven in most cases by the change in Government policy.
The most popular method of international collaboration is currently the use of joint or dual degrees, with 57% of those surveyed already providing these and 52% considering collaborating to reach overseas markets.

 

University of Nottingham Ningbo, China - Internationalisation for real

University of Nottingham Ningbo, China – Internationalisation for real


As the article notes there is a lot more to internationalisation than branch campus development but nevertheless it does seem that there are plenty of institutions considering the possibility:

When choosing where to expand to, the Pinsent Masons survey revealed that, unsurprisingly, universities are focussing on where the greatest demand is – namely countries with an expanding middle class and a relative shortage of higher education places.

This is why universities are focusing on China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil and the Middle East. Of those surveyed, 80% of universities told us that they were targeting China.

More surprising is the presence of the USA, an already mature higher education market, on the priority lists of over half of universities.

Although the idea of establishing an overseas campus is not new and does represent a rational response to the challenges of Government immigration policy this is a far from straightforward strategy. As noted in a previous post about the University of Nottingham’s international activities there is a lot to consider and it requires a significant, deep and sustained commitment to internationalisation. Both abroad and at home.

The Imperfect University: The End of Internationalisation?

Is it the end for internationalization?

No. It’s not a bubble. It’s not bursting.

A recent Chronicle blog suggested that, in common with some other higher education activities, internationalization was a bubble and about to burst. It isn’t. International student recruitment patterns continue to evolve, some branch campuses are less successful than others and the global economic downturn is having an impact on everyone. This doesn’t mean international higher education is finished.

Unfortunately though it does seem that with all of the hype around MOOCs and the talk of the havoc that this disruptive innovation will wreak on higher education it is beginning to feel that internationalization is last year’s topic for university leaders. Leaving aside the fact that online learning, in whatever form, can largely be offered freely across national borders, the key issue here is the challenge presented by MOOCs to the traditional campus experience, especially when it is on an offshore campus.

The argument goes that if students can access university courses wherever they are why would they need to travel to a campus overseas (or a branch campus in their own country) to do so. At a stroke therefore transnational education and student mobility are eliminated and branch campuses, of which there are now in excess of 200 with at least another 37 on the way (according to the latest OBHE survey from January 2012), will inevitably wither and die.

First, I really don’t think all the MOOC hype sounds the death knell for internationalization of higher education. It remains a huge and growing market across the world with over 3.5m (in 2009) of the world’s higher education students studying in countries other than their own and growth rates in tertiary education and student mobility only expected to slow a little over the next period (according to the British Council’s Shape of Things to Come report).

Second, the campus offer remains a hugely attractive one. Whether it is a UK, US or Australian university or the Chinese, Malaysian or UAE campus of a western institution, the nature of the experience, the quality of delivery and the employment prospects offered by successful completion of a degree all still look like a pretty good option, wherever you are in the world.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Third, in terms of promoting the home institution overseas, whilst a couple of snappy MOOCs might look like they have some decent enrolments, there really isn’t a substitute for a substantive in-country presence for raising profile.

Fourth, when western governments start getting sniffy about visas then the branch campus option nearer home (which is usually cheaper too) looks increasingly like a sensible option.

Fifth, universities are, of course, about much more than just content delivery. Developing a comprehensive branch campus offer doesn’t just mean offering courses, it’s also about engaging with students in a different cultural context, establishing new research and knowledge transfer activity (including bilateral investment opportunities) and playing an active part in a community in another country.

Sixth, as the OBHE report shows, branch campus numbers continue to grow as universities realize the long term benefits of establishing a physical presence overseas. And whilst NYU seems to have run into some difficulties at home in persuading its faculty of the merits of its international ambitions, more and more universities are following its lead and that of Nottingham in building overseas campuses.

Seventh, and this is the key reason that internationalisation will not disappear, it is an intrinsic part of higher education and it is fundamentally a long game. You don’t build a branch campus overnight and it is a huge long term commitment. Not quite the same as a 10 hour MOOC. Demonstrating commitment to a branch campus is hugely important to show that the university is there for the long term and not merely pursuing temporary opportunistic goals. This kind of genuine internationalization is serious, inevitably risky and extremely challenging. But it’s worth it.

Not over yet

Not over yet

So has disruptive innovation displaced internationalization? Will MOOCs kill branch campuses? No. Undoubtedly the challenges in maintaining the quality of campus delivery and the need to blend online and face-to-face will become more sharply focused but the future of higher education remains most firmly international.

The narrative around disruptive innovation is very short termist, its evangelists preach the language of overnight revolution, of avalanches and tsunami. Seductive as this hype might be from those who think that the physical campus is sure to die, they are profoundly mistaken. There will remain a fundamental place for the campus in the high quality higher education experience for many years to come. Steady long term pursuit of international development remains sound strategy. Investment, partnership, relationship building, putting down roots, long term commitment, shared learning, indeed all of the things that run counter to the disruptive innovation discourse, are at the heart of internationalization.

Internationalisation of higher education may have been displaced by MOOCs in the headlines but it is still very much at the heart of strategy of leading universities. It is therefore perhaps a bit early to be writing off internationalization of HE and branch campus developments.

Evaluating University Internationalisation

On the benefits of evaluating international activity

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A nice short article by Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General of the International Association of Universities (IAU) published by the Academic Coordination Association.

Egron-Polak argues that there is a beneficial emphasis on evaluating internationalisation at present and that this trend means that international activity is being taken seriously and that all kinds of such activity is being fully and properly scrutinised. Moreover, it means that universities are continuing, quite properly, to debate their approach to internationalisation, in other words to ask ‘why are we doing this?’.

Although she acknowledges that terminology is difficult here and internationalisation has as many different definitions as there are institutions, Egron-Polak argues that there is real value in the kind of assessment undertaken by the IAU through its Internationalization Strategies Advisory Service (ISAS) where “the aim is to know whether or not the internationalisation goals are being achieved; and if we fall short of that, why this is the case, and what is required to redress the situation”.

The overall outcomes of the ISAS programme are quite interesting:

And, despite the vastly dissimilar contextual realities in each university, each ISAS project still confirmed that the dominant understanding of internationalisation of higher education remains relatively narrow or only partial. Consequently, internationalisation tends to be implemented in a limited manner. And when institutions embark on an assessment, they are likely to focus on just a few, basic aspects, using a limited set of (usually quantitative) indicators, such as the number of international students on campus, the number of exchange partnerships, the teaching of foreign languages and the hosting of visitors from abroad.  Despite the clear importance of these indicators of internationalisation, are they really a mark that the goals of internationalisation have been achieved?  How much do they tell us about the impact of these actions on the learning that takes place?  How well can the academic community reply to the ‘why’ questions that can be raised about these actions, particularly when they require institutional investment?

So actually it looks like many institutions really have quite a long way to go to develop a more comprehensive conceptualisation of internationalisation. This seems to me to be rather disappointing but perhaps not entirely surprising. It does take time to develop beyond the basic issues of student numbers and exchange agreements and it is perhaps therefore inevitable that some universities will be further down the road than others. In all cases though, stepping back and asking the ‘why’ questions in relation to different international activities does seem sensible.

Are US universities retreating from international ventures?

It seems there is a “new caution” for US universities overseas

Seattle P-I has a piece on what looks like a slowdown in the international activities of US universities:

High-profile and expensive failures of Middle East branch campuses run by Michigan State and George Mason were a wake-up call. Suffolk University recently closed a campus in Senegal after concluding it would be cheaper just to bring the students to Boston. The University of Connecticut dropped plans for a campus in Dubai amid criticism of the United Arab Emirates’ policies toward Israel. Plans for a University of Montana campus in China never panned out, and Singapore’s government shut down a Johns Hopkins University biomedical research center.

Even elite schools still pushing forward, like Duke, Yale and New York University, have faced resistance from faculty concerned about finances, quality and whether host countries like China, Singapore and the UAE will uphold academic freedom.

The result: a new era of caution, particularly toward a model that once looked like the wave of the future. Some experts say branch campuses — where a U.S. university “plants a flag,” operates its own campus and awards degrees in its own name — are falling from favor.

“The gold rush mentality of the 2000s is over,” said Jason Lane, a professor and co-director of the cross-border education research team at the State University of New York-Albany. His data show 60 U.S. institutions with 83 overseas campuses in 39 countries. But the number of new international branch campuses peaked at 11 in 2008 — just before the financial crisis — and only four have opened since.

Caution is certainly advisable. However, the real caution here is against a view of internationalisation of university operations which sees it as a “gold rush”. No institution should see developing a presence in another country as an income generating activity as a response to a time of financial challenge. Whilst some universities have been extremely generously supported by host governments, most notably NYU and the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, for most the dowries are much smaller. And, as previously argued here, internationalisation, and the establishment of an international campus in particular, is a long game. There are no get rich quick schemes here. The article goes on to note that:

Instead, schools like UCLA and the Universities of Michigan and North Carolina have opted for more of a soft-power approach — a range of partnerships often starting on the departmental or school level where the home university is less invested but also offering an easier exit strategy if things go south.

But surely such partnerships are part of the everyday life of internationally engaged universities – it’s not about choosing one strategy over another but rather different facets of a genuine approach to international partnership. Again, this is about building long term and enduring partnerships which will, ultimately, be of benefit to all.

Naming internationalisation “will not revive it”

Is internationalisation in need of revival?

Hans de Wit, who is a professor of internationalisation of higher education, has published a really interesting piece on University World News on why “naming internationalisation will not revive it”.

A recent phenomenon in the debate on the future of the internationalisation of higher education is the inclination to put new broad-based labels on it: mainstreaming, comprehensive, holistic, integrated and deep internationalisation are some of the ones we see used in recent writings and presentations.

The most common current label appears to be ‘comprehensive internationalisation’, thanks mainly to the paper with that title which past president of the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), John Hudzik, wrote this year with the subtitle ‘From concept to action’.

I saw Hudzik speak on comprehensive internationalisation at the 2011 Going Global conference earlier in 2011 and found his arguments reasonably convincing. I also wrote a piece for Times Higher Education on internationalisation and the University of Nottingham experience which set out some of the ways in which the rhetoric can be turned into reality (without using any new terminology). De Wit continues:

In Europe the term ‘mainstream(ing) internationalisation’ is becoming more common, although this is perceived less as a concept than ‘comprehensive internationalisation’. It is used to describe a process emphasising the need to position internationalisation within the core of higher education instead of keeping it as a marginal issue.

Why do we see this emergence of new labels? What do they mean and how are they used? And will they advance the debate on the future of internationalisation started by Uwe Brandenburg and me in our recent International Higher Education essay with the provocative title “The End of Internationalisation”?

These questions occurred to me after chairing a debate on “What do we mean by ‘deep internationalisation’?” at the Australia International Education Conference in Adelaide on 13 October 2011.

There are lots of terms for what we mean by internationalisation when executed at an institutional level for strategic rather than opportunistic reasons. And Professor de Wit’s reflections on the various meanings of these terms are worth considering further. He continues, setting “deep” against “comprehensive” internationalisation:

Even after the session I was not clear what our Australian colleagues meant by the term ‘deep internationalisation’ and it also seemed to me that they themselves were not very clear or convinced about it. From what I can ascertain, ‘deep’ internationalisation seems to lie somewhere between ‘comprehensive’ and ‘mainstream’.

It is a bit clearer what John Hudzik means by ‘comprehensive internationalisation’. His definition – although I read it more as a statement and action plan – reads as follows: “A commitment through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research and service mission of higher education”. He continues, adding values, ethos and internal and external stakeholders.

It’s an interesting article and I think de Wit is right to be suspicious of those who seek to apply labels to justify or perhaps overstate their international activities. Giving a name to a set of institutional operations or aspirations doesn’t necessarily make them more substantial or meaningful.

But what all of these names do seem to have in common is a seriousness of purpose and intent – they do represent an attempt to render internationalisation as a coherent and intelligent approach to higher education in the global era. So, whilst they may have many flaws and in some cases serve to overstate the reality of institutional operations, there is merit in seeking to describe and rationalise these activities. So, I think we are far from “the end of internationalisation.”

Internationalisation’s mid-life crisis?

Or which way now for internationalisation?

In a recent opinion piece in THE, I argued that genuine internationalisation, including building campuses overseas, was challenging but achievable and required a sincere long term commitment. Others have been asking some hard questions about the whole idea of internationalisation. So, has it lost its way? Is it the end of internationalisation? Or is it just having a mid-life crisis?

Inside Higher Ed has a report on ‘The End of Internationalization?’, a session at the recent NAFSA conference in Vancouver:

Is the internationalization of higher education suffering from a midlife crisis? Jane Knight, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, posed that question during a standing-room only session provocatively titled “The End of Internationalization?” Thursday at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference.

“Or are we having an identity crisis? Or are we losing its true north? Are we losing some of the key values about what is behind and supporting and guiding internationalization?”

Knight proposed a deeper discussion about the values underlying internationalization of higher education, which she suggested have shifted over the years. These shifts, she said, have been from cooperation to competition, mutual benefit to self-interest, exchange and partnership to commercial trade and activity, and, as illustrated by the rise in influence of global rankings, from capacity-building to status- or prestige-building.

Peter Scott, writing in the Guardian, pursues a similar theme:

I prefer a simpler distinction – the good, the bad and the ugly. Internationalisation is a clumsy word used to describe a wide range of activities, some of which we should be very proud of, and others best left in the shadows. But first, we need to dispose of the rhetoric. The overwhelming majority of universities were established as national institutions – for example, the big civic universities here in Britain and the land-grant universities in the US. They were not spontaneously created somewhere in the international ether.

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There is an urgent need to reset the compass of internationalisation, to steer towards the good and away from the ugly. Not only is this morally right, it is also probably in the best long-term interests of the sector.

Has internationalisation really lost its way? I think this is something of an over-simplification. It is about focusing on the right values, as suggested here by Jane Knight, but also about long term commitment. With the right approach internationalisation can be genuinely good rather than ugly.

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.