Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Big World Out There

Elizabeth Redden,

image from
The senior administrators tasked with promoting and coordinating international activities on their university campuses are gathered here for the annual Association of International Education Administrators conference. On the agenda are sessions on a wide range of activities bundled up in the term “internationalization,” including student mobility, global learning, international partnerships, joint and dual degree programs, and cross-national research. ..
[A ...] piece of research discussed on Tuesday was a report on national policies and programs for internationalizing higher education jointly produced by the Boston College Center for International Higher Education and the American Council on Education. Robin Matross Helms, associate director of research for ACE's Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement, said that the goal of the report was to "take stock" of the wide range of national policies across the globe, the motivations for these policies and the main actors responsible for putting them into practice.
As Helms explained, the report provides a five-part typology for classifying these policies depending on their primary focus (student mobility, scholar mobility and research collaboration, cross-border education, internationalization at home, and comprehensive internationalization strategies) and similarly divides motivations for these policies into four main categories: academic motivations (expanding higher education capacity, improving higher education quality, prestige and rankings, knowledge creation and advancement); economic rationales (short-term economic gain, workforce development, long-term national economic development); political motivations (public diplomacy and "soft power," national security, and international development); and social//cultural rationales (addressing global problems, promoting global citizenship and mutual understanding).
The report also includes an analysis of the various actors who carry out and influence policy -- including regional government entities, national governmental agencies, quasi-governmental organizations, higher education associations, universities, students, and taxpayers.
Finally, the report includes numerous examples of specific policies around the globe that fall under each of the categories identified below.
1. Student mobility
Inbound mobilityGrants/scholarships
Visa policies
Preferential admission policies
"Study in" initiatives
Outbound mobilityGrants/scholarships
Financial aid policies
Bilateral or regional mobilityHarmonization
Networks, consortia and exchange agreements
Intraregional scholarships
2. Scholar mobility and research collaborationFunding for visiting scholars
Programs and grants to send faculty abroad
Policies to repatriate faculty from abroad
Project-based research grants
3. Cross-border educationPartnerships for capacity building
Campuses and programs abroad
4. Internationalization at homeInternationalization of the curriculum
Broad institutional engagement with internationalization
5. Comprehensive internationalization strategiesGlobal strategies
Strategies with a specific geographic focus
Laura Rumbley, of Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education (and another Inside Higher Ed blogger), said that researchers didn’t attempt to determine the effectiveness of the many national policies they identified, but that they did seek to identify factors that could limit the effectiveness of policies. These include funding, approaches to implementation, the interplay and alignment between various internationalization-related policies (as one example, the report notes that a policy to recruit international students could be hobbled by restrictive visa policies), and the convergence between national policies and institutional interests. On the other hand, "clarity, commitment and flexibility" stood out as key elements of effective policies.
“Ultimately, the effectiveness of internationalization policies seems to derive from a starting point that is unequivocally rooted in three key notions: clarity, commitment and flexibility," the report on the research states. "A clear rationale and realistic vision provide the road map, outlining specific objectives in plausible terms. The stakeholders involved must possess the will to engage with the policy as implementers and advocates. Commitment also implies the provision (or cultivation) of necessary resources (human and otherwise) to sustain the effort. And finally, as issues and challenges arise, the policy framework and the stakeholders who are implicated in the effort to advance it must prove themselves able to respond with some degree of agility to a range of unexpected developments.” ...

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