Internationalisation and the quality of higher education
One of the practices that strengthen the quality of education in higher education institutions is what is known as internationalisation. Simply put, internationalisation is cross-border higher education, in the sense we talk of cross-border trade. Internationalisation, therefore, refers to a situation where a university, for example, integrates intercultural and international practices from an international university or universities into its core functions of teaching, research and community engagement. Internationalisation takes place when students, academics, programmes or courses or course materials actually cross borders to other universities. In simpler terms, internationalisation involves the mobility of students and academics, and the adaption and adoption of international programmes or single courses. We then talk of out-bound mobility, we refer to students and academics going out of their country to international universities, and in-bound students and academics, meaning those who are coming into the country from international universities. Students and academic exchanging programmes between and among universities are good examples of internationalisation of tertiary education. Universities in Namibia, for example, have signed memorandums of understanding or partnership programmes or collaborations with other universities in the world.
Internationalisation has many benefits to its partners. With regard to programmes, a university that practises internationalisation enhances its degree programmes by incorporating content from a partner university or universities depending on the needs. Students benefit from internationalised degree programmes even when they have not gone out to international universities. When the internationalised degrees succeed, we say the institution has succeeded in internationalising its curriculum. This is internationalisation at home, literally meaning that the students have an internationalised curriculum when they are at their home university. In some cases, students have to cover certain courses in degree programmes offered by an international university away from home. In this case, students in one country have to go and attend classes in another country for a specified period of time, say six months or a year depending on the agreements. The students come back from the host university with credits or courses that will be transferred to their degree programmes at the home university. The internationalised learning and exposure add value to the students’ degrees. Related to this are the cultural interactions that take place during this period in a foreign country. In addition, students take advantage of the period away from home to form networks with students from different countries.
Similarly, out-bound mobility strengthens the delivery of academic staff and researchers. Staff exchange programmes contribute to the professional development of local academics. Also, internationalisation can occur during contact visits and sabbatical vacations of academics to other intuitions. The collaborations between and among universities lead to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and collaborative research inputs that benefit the partner academics and universities.
Internationalisation can also be implemented through what are called international branch campuses. Universities, especially leading universities in developed countries, construct physical campuses in other countries. The international branch campuses bear the names of the mother institutions, for example, UK’s Nottingham University has a Nottingham University in Malaysia. I had an opportunity of visiting this magnificent university during my visit to Malaysia in 2014. Most of the programmes offered at the Malaysian campus are similar to those offered in UK.
Nearer home, we have witnessed foreign university operations akin to international branch campuses. For instance, the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe runs programmes in Namibia although the university has no physical infrastructure. It uses third parties to conduct its business here.
When an institution recruits academic staff from all over the world, such an institution strengthens the quality of its degree programmes as this is another form of internationalisation. The heterogeneous nature of academic staff is healthy as each academic brings something new from the previous institution, which will add value to the curriculum. Foreign academics are therefore crucial for any university; there contributions should be cherished and acknowledged.
For successful internationalisation to take place, there must be planning. It must be clear what an institution aims to achieve from a certain form of internationalisation. It is important to decide which institutions to target for specific goals before engaging them. It might be that the target partner institutions excel in science education, social sciences, humanities or agriculture and the interest of your institution are in these areas. Internationalisation plans assist institutions in choosing key partners for their purposes. Institutions are discouraged from taking ad hoc actions as far as interantionalisation is concerned, as this approach does not yield good results in the end. Most importantly, all academics must support internationalisation efforts of their institution so that students are not affected in cases where students spend time away from the home institution.
When it is well planned and executed, internationalistaion results in a high quality of education and produces individuals who fit in this global society.
* Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord.
New Era Reporter
2019-03-08 10:15:24 6 months ago