Universities to step up international efforts – Survey

Europe’s universities are already relatively international in character and most have strategies in place to step up their international efforts further, according to a new survey of members by the European University Association (EUA).

The universities are keenly awaiting the European Commission’s proposals for an internationalisation strategy, believing this could sharpen awareness of the merits of such a policy among their own leaderships and help focus individual efforts.

In total, 180 complete responses from 175 higher education institutions in 38 countries on the state of internationalisation in higher education were received by the EUA.

The results will feed into the association’s annual conference from 11-12 April at Ghent University in Belgium, where ‘global engagement’ is set to be a major theme for discussion.

The survey shows that about a third of the responding EUA institutions have an international student population above 10% of total students enrolled.

More than half (56%) have an internationalisation strategy in place and a further 13% intend to develop one or have considered internationalisation in other strategies.

Such strategies have a significant impact on universities’ international activities, said the EUA.

It singled out the development of new partnerships with new regions and countries (73%), sending more students abroad (72%), growing the international student population (68%), offering international opportunities to staff (67%), offering more courses in English (67%) and developing double and joint degrees (61%).

The survey found that the most popular priority for action was ‘attracting students from abroad’, chosen by 30% of respondents, followed by ‘internationalisation of learning and teaching’ (19%), ‘providing our students with more opportunities to have a learning experience abroad’ (12%) and ‘strategic research partnerships’ (10%).

Most respondents (69%) thought that a European Union internationalisation strategy could have a positive impact by contributing to the development of national strategies and by stimulating the general discussion on internationalisation in their countries.

On the EUA’s own future work, they put the promotion of funding opportunities at the top of the list, followed by good-practice exchange at workshops, and contribution to strategy development.

Most European universities (58%) had heard of the online, interactive courses known as MOOCs (massive open online courses), although barely a third had discussed them internally.

Some 44% thought that MOOCs should be further developed in Europe, but 48% had no clear opinion and there was clearly a need for more information on the subject.