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GLOBAL: Internationalisation - Aid, trade, pervade

Hans de Wit's commentary in University World News on 23 October, titled "Naming internationalisation will not revive it", makes interesting reading. He is right to say that too much time is spent on definitions and arguing over detail, and asks whether such labels will advance the debate on the future of internationalisation. Perhaps this is exactly the problem - we are still having a debate.

While we continue to argue over whether internationalisation means student mobility, recruiting international students, internationalising the curriculum, developing globally competent staff or preparing students for a globally interconnected world, we need to be reminded that an integrated approach to internationalisation involves all of these and more.

Too few university leaders have yet grasped the potential of internationalisation as a powerful force for change, restricting themselves instead to the economic or brand-enhancing concepts of global engagement. John Hudzik's article on 'comprehensive internationalisation' at least seeks to remind us of the breadth of issues we face.

As Hans de Wit says, Jane Knight, in her article "Is Internationalisation Having an Identity Crisis?", asks whether we are able to "focus on values and not only on definitions".

Equally it is now time to ask whether we are able to focus on actions rather than further debate. In Australia, academics talk of the two phases of internationalisation as being aid then trade. It's now time for internationalisation to 'pervade' and to reach all aspects of university life - vice-chancellors, presidents and provosts, take note.

At the same conference in Adelaide to which Hans de Wit refers, I gave a paper which asked whether different global interpretations of the term 'internationalisation' are not in fact barriers to greater effectiveness in achieving internationalisation itself.

The paper suggested 10 key indicators of a university which has achieved 'comprehensive' or 'integrated' internationalisation:

1. The rationale and strategy for internationalisation is linked to the university's vision and values and clearly communicated to and understood by academic and support staff at all levels across the institution, governing bodies and external stakeholders.

2. Governance, leadership and management. The importance and relevance of internationalisation is explicit in all key university policies and strategies, incorporated into planning processes and delivered through normal line management routes across academic and corporate services and reported on annually to governors and-or senate.

3. Internationalisation of the formal curriculum for all students is pervasive, in terms of content, pedagogy, assessment processes and graduate outcomes. This demonstrates the impact of global issues on the discipline and related professions and the role and impact of that discipline in the global context. Varied international mobility opportunities support the internationalised curriculum and intercultural learning opportunities are available within the local community.

4. International campus culture and informal curriculum is visible. The international aspects of university life are celebrated regularly through events and activities that support internationalisation on the home campus.

5. A vibrant, diverse international and multicultural student community is evident, with students actively participating in campus life and being valued for the way in which they enrich classroom and campus culture.

6. Guidance and support for students outside the classroom supports incoming international students as well as promoting and encouraging internationalisation for all students, domestic and international.

7. Staff development, recognition and reward for engaging in any aspect of the international dimension of university life is offered systematically for all staff through performance review or appraisal.

8. Broad and deep international partnerships provide global opportunities for student and staff engagement through research, staff and student exchange or placement, collaborative programmes, benchmarking of performance and a bilateral programme of visiting academic and support staff.

9. Resources follow strategy to ensure that the commitment to integrated internationalisation can be delivered.

10. Continuous enhancement of internationalisation activities and strategy is undertaken through monitoring, reflection and evaluation processes which inform reviews of policy and practice.

This is challenge enough for any university and our efforts should not be impeded by the distraction of terminology, definition or debate.

To achieve our objectives we need to take small steps on all fronts rather than berating ourselves for lack of progress. We should integrate rather than 'add on' internationalisation.

We need to engage all staff in this endeavour whether academic or professional support and, above all, we need to engage and listen to our students, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of our efforts to internationalise.

Enough rhetoric and debate - let's get on with it!

* Professor Elspeth Jones is emerita professor of the internationalisation of higher education at Leeds Metropolitan University and an international education consultant. Until July 2011 she was international dean at the university, where she devised and led implementation of its internationalisation strategies. In 2009 she founded CAPRI, the Centre for Academic Practice and Research in Internationalisation. Her publications include the edited collection, Internationalisation and the Student Voice (Routledge 2010), and Internationalising Higher Education (edited with Sally Brown) (Routledge 2007). She is a member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Studies in International Education and visiting professor at the University of Zagreb.

Email: EJ@ElspethJones.com
Twitter: @elspethjones
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