To me, this week’s readings are all about assessing whether there are “teeth” to the concepts we have been discussing and whether the practical realities if higher education make them sustainable. Adding to the notion of internationalization, this week, Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses: 2012 Edition introduced us to the concept of “comprehensive internationalization” and laid out guidance on how to achieve it, if achievable at all. The IAU Internationalization Survey gave us some hard facts and statistics to better gauge and understand how the concept of internationalization actually translates on campuses.
For me, an interesting part of the readings this week was that concepts are easy to pay lip service to and talk about in idealized and romanticized ways, but is there real teeth and resources for meaningful implementation of comprehensive internationalization at our colleges and universities or are they terms thrown around that do not fully take into account the critical importance of student learning and curriculum development?
Having come off a couple of weeks of analyzing strategic plans and mission statements of a diverse group of US colleges and universities, it is clear to me that these documents and statements are key to introducing concepts of global education and comprehensive internationalization. Making sure that they have the teeth and muscle power to lead to implementation underscores even more how important it is that they be well thought out and presented documents stemming from the highest institutional leaders. The path from strategic plan to implementation of comprehensive internationalization has to be a legitimate one – one bolstered by optimism but also one that recognizes the institutional and student learning challenges that must be overcome to not have empty plans and statements. The IAU survey reflects that student learning and student mobility are priorities of internationalization efforts and that specific activities are being considered and targeted. This is promising. But balanced against this is some of the reality of the ACE piece which reflects that data shows some improvements but also some stagnation. In the US, attention also needs to be focused on not just delivering comprehensive internationalization to students in general, but non-traditional students as well who make up more and more of the student body population at our colleges and universities. One way to ensure this is to address such factors in strategic plans and vision statements directly with data driven analysis and support strategies. This will allow for some “teeth” in the optimistic plans and mission philosophies of US colleges and universities striving for meaningful comprehensive internationalization with student learning at the center of its priorities.
This week’s reading continues to touch upon the importance of having a shared strategic plan between the national government and the institutions and also includes an analysis on various governance models that exist in higher education governance around the world. As mentioned in the OECD report, ensuring the quality of the outcomes of internationalization efforts for all parties involved (students, faculties/staff, institutions, governments, local communities, etc.) should be a priority of the decision-makers. The report focuses on what institutions should consider in various issues and aspects of internationalization of higher education, and for the most part, ensuring that any decision made towards internationalization efforts should be analyzed to see what the benefits and risks are. Even though that seems obvious, I think there is definitely a possibility that in efforts to catch up to institutions that are in the lead, some institutions may fall prey to all the various trends that may or may not be a good fit for that particular institution.
In particular, when it comes to recruiting more international students (which, in the US, definitely seems to be one of the go-to methods of internationalization, but probably more for financial reasons), the OECD pushes for a global effort to ensure quality education and the need for institutions and governments to evaluate the education offered to international students (which would subsequently lead to benefitting their local students I hope). With the continual chase to turn students into global citizens ready to tackle global issues in collaboration with other around the world through internationalization of higher education, it makes sense why the OECD report (class reading) highlights in multiple cases that working with the government and also finding the best fit institutions in other countries to form networks and collaboration relationships to generate new knowledge is ever more important for institutions looking to provide more in terms of helping their students and the institution become more globally competent and viable.
Specifically in regards to international students, the UK compiled a study on international student satisfaction to better inform the UK institutions on areas to improve and what strengths to continue to hone. In a majority of the measures of the study, UK institutions ranks number one and has seen an increase in satisfaction when compared to previous years. But despite the high level of satisfaction, there’s a stagnation in international student enrollment at UK institutions as compared to the US and Canada, which have seen a increase in international student enrollment. But it’s not entirely surprising because the study also found that the UK does not seem to utilize education agents as much to recruit students. And as mentioned in class discussions, the US, in particular, has increasingly utilized education agents (even providing commission fees) to continually increase its international student population, which might allude to why there’s been an increase in international student enrollment at US institutions. While the article goes on to suggest that maybe the UK should make more use of education agents to recruit more international students, I think the UK’s focus on ensuring its students get a quality education and experience is a better focus.