23.04.2014
Internationalisation – A student-centred approach is key

Internationalisation of higher education has gained public attention as one result of the increased cross-border activity of universities across the world. This activity includes, mostly, what Jane Knight defines as 'internationalisation abroad', which takes the form of the movement of programmes, people and institutions across national borders. 

Internationalisation activities also take the form of efforts to enhance the international dimension of home provision and these activities are summarised as 'internationalisation at home'.

Internationalisation of higher education has gained public attention as one result of the increased cross-border activity of universities across the world. This activity includes, mostly, what Jane Knight defines as 'internationalisation abroad', which takes the form of the movement of programmes, people and institutions across national borders.

Internationalisation activities also take the form of efforts to enhance the international dimension of home provision and these activities are summarised as 'internationalisation at home'.

Various views have been expressed about the purpose and motive behind the internationalisation of higher education.

On one side of the debate are those who claim that internationalisation is nothing more than a way for traditional exporting countries of higher education, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, to expand their market reach and promote the globalisation of their higher education agenda.

On the other side of the debate are those who see internationalisation as a way to contribute to the capacity-building of developing countries in their efforts to meet the rapidly expanding demand for higher education and a way to promote multicultural understanding and respect.

An irreversible trend

Irrespective of this debate, internationalisation of higher education is an irreversible trend that will continue to expand in the coming years.

The reasons for this are: 1) the increased pressures for alternative sources of income for universities in traditional exporting countries of higher education where the adoption of neo-liberal policies has meant lower direct public funding for universities; 2) the growing demand for higher education that is unlikely to be met by the domestic higher education systems in most developing countries.

So far, internationalisation activities have been dominated by a heavy focus on the replication of home programmes in offshore locations, as part of internationalisation abroad, and the adoption of English as the medium of instruction, as part of internationalisation at home.

One clear challenge for internationalisation is that it has to be transformed in order to be able to meet the challenges ahead, as has been outlined by recent and earlier articles. 

Primarily, internationalisation should regain its neutral meaning, moving from that of a force for globalisation that implies a heavy commercial focus to a two-way process of cross-cultural learning. Many distinguished scholars have contributed extensively to the debate and almost all possible directions have been discussed.

Demand side

Nevertheless, so far, too much of the emphasis has been placed on the supply side, namely higher education providers, regulatory bodies, governments and international associations. 

Despite this being an essential component of the transformation of internationalisation, it does not account for the complete picture needed in order to consider the required strategic shift. 

The demand side, which includes primarily students and then, in a more indirect way, their families and prospective employers, is by and large left outside the discussion of repositioning the internationalisation of higher education.

This is absurd, when simultaneously at national and institutional levels there appears to be a heavy focus on student experience, value for money and employability.

Instead of the current supply-side focus, the transformation of internationalisation strategy in higher education should start by refocusing on students and their longer-term benefits. 

Here the suggestion is to refocus internationalisation strategy by developing and pursuing activities that will aim to fulfil any, if not all, of three student-centred objectives:

1) increasing employability;

2) enhancing value for money;

and 3) multicultural exposure and understanding.

It is the achievement of these objectives that will affect demand for higher education and, consequently, will drive supply-side objectives.

A double-dip internationalisation strategy can aid the fulfilment of the above objectives...

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(Source: http://www.universityworldnews.com/)

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