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Understanding internationalisation of higher education (Part 2)

2021-05-07  Prof Jairos Kangira

Understanding internationalisation of higher education (Part 2)

Prof. Jairos Kangira

The role top management plays in the internationalisation of higher education is crucial for its successful implementation. According to Fielden (2011, p.43), internationalisation programmes need to get the support of academics and administrative staff at an institution for them to succeed. 

He observed that “[institutional] leaders have to persuade academic colleagues of the value of creating a partnership in their own discipline … this cannot be done by the senior management alone; it needs the support of the deans [who] …in turn have to persuade their faculty and departmental colleagues” (p. 45). This observation is validated by the fact that in many institutions, there is a great need to educate and persuade all the stakeholders about the benefits and challenges of the internationalisation of education. 

When there is no support for the internationalisation efforts, this results in some outbound students being negatively affected when their overseas courses are not given formal credit by their home institutions on their return from abroad. In other words, the vision of the internationalisation programmes (Aerden, 2013) must be shared by all stakeholders, and institutional leaders have a responsibility to win the necessary support from all stakeholders within and outside the institutions.

In order to operate and manage successful international partnerships in higher education institutions, leadership and management skills are required.  In his report, Fielden (2011) presented case studies which demonstrate that the sustainability of international partnerships rests on the judgement, foresight and expertise of those managing the partnerships. 

Leadership roles such as organising the internationalisation plans and getting funding, among others, are crucial to the effective management and governance of partnerships. The report also gives various ways of initiating partnerships, with participants ranging from an individual academic to the Vice Chancellor. Related to this, Murray (2012) described the successes of the Monash University International Partnership Plan in which Monash and its partner institutions engage “…further internationalisation of the curriculum, students and staff” in addition to “creating a research-led teaching environment” (p. 28). 

Similarly, Murray and Goedegebuure (2013) reported on the need for Australian international higher education leaders to increase long term internationalisation strategies directed especially to Asia, and extend the participation of faculty in the internationalisation process. 

Other important issues Murray and Goedegebuure raise in their reports are the need for synergy between academic researchers and administrative staff in the internationalisation process, and the need to educate academic staff more on the process of internationalisation so that they do not view it as merely recruiting international students for financial gain by institutions. 

The findings of this report on the evaluation of internationalisation practices in Australia and Europe show the “need for the quality assessment of internationalisation strategies in higher education” (Aerden et al., 2013, p. 60). 

External stakeholders may assist or hinder the process of internationalisation. 

For example, there is a need to involve government ministries that have a direct responsibility for dealing with the affairs of inbound students. 

Luijten-Lub, Van der Wende and Huisman (2005) cite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry for Social Affairs as crucial for the internationalisation process in the seven western countries of their study. 

The countries are Austria, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. These ministries have control over the issuing of visas and residence permits for inbound students and exchange faculty. In Namibia, the Ministry of Home Affairs controls inbound student visas, and work permits or visiting visas for foreign academic staff.  Southern African countries have various visa requirements for international students and faculty fulfilling internationalisation partnerships. It is suggested that Southern African countries should come up with a universal and easily accessible visa that would strengthen the internationalisation of education in higher education institutions.

The internationalisation of higher education requires marketing strategies aimed at recruiting international students. Universities which take internationalisation seriously cannot do without mounting marketing campaigns to attract inbound students. Lawrence and Adams (2011) analysed marketing strategies that have been used to attract what they call the “new generation of students” to higher education institutions in Australia. Campaigns such as “Study Abroad” and “Study in Australia”, among others, have been successfully used in Australia. 

The importance of mentioning these strategies is to illustrate that marketing what the host institution and country offer to international students is more likely to make the institution a destination for international students.  Literature shows that there is a lack of marketing strategies in some higher education institutions. In such cases, rigorous internationalisation advertisements or campaigns should be mounted by host universities in order for them to attract foreign students.  The credibility of internationalisation programmes is of crucial importance when advertising them. 

In this regard, Lawrence and Adams (2011, p. 214) observed that: “For global credibility, the international student programme needs to be within an international and national context that recognises that recruiting international students is just one part of an internationalisation mix that includes student mobility, research collaborations and the internationalisation of the curriculum.”

Lawton and Katsomitros (2012) presented a survey of international branch campuses. They discussed the motivations and drivers of offshore higher education. They also distinguished between international branch campuses and transnational education activities.

Knowing the various types of internationalisation is crucial for the sake of making informed decisions about which type or types to engage in. Some of the types outgoing Australian students choose from are exchange, short-term, semester or year-long programmes, work-study placements or practical training and research, among others. Olsen also illustrated the various sources of internationalisation funding, thereby suggesting that for internationalisation programmes to be successful, they must identify and tap from a range of different sources of funding.

The two instalments have shown that there are many benefits in planned and well-executed internationalisation of higher education.

2021-05-07  Prof Jairos Kangira

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