We will not accept retreat from global engagement

I would not be as despondent as Philip Altbach and Hans de Wit (University World News, 11 November 2016) about the Trump ascendency slowing the internationalisation of American universities.

No doubt the re-emergence of nationalist chauvinism in both the US and the UK (and possibly soon in France and Germany) means the climate is now less conducive to our efforts to encourage and support the internationalisation of our universities.

The damage likely to emerge from the withdrawal of the welcome mat for some groups will be real, as will the impact of adverse policy levers, especially visa regulations for foreigners to research, teach and study in the US. We are well aware of these types of problems here in Australia.

But let’s be positive. Being positive is empowering and will spur action. Young people, and even old people in universities, will not accept the retreat from global engagement by their societies and by their education systems. It can’t happen.

Altbach correctly says “higher education internationalisation is not the result of government initiatives either at the federal or state levels, but of the policies and programmes of the higher education institutions and communities themselves”.

I have a great deal of faith in the agency of individuals and of education institutions to find ways through and around the current troubles and to successfully impart the importance of us all having a wider view of the world and not to be fixated on our little patch of it.

This is a leadership challenge and we should rise to it. We need to understand the context, be innovative and prescient about the varieties of futures of internationalisation and to accelerate our actions, individually and also collectively.

Dennis Murray
Senior Honorary Fellow
LH Martin Institute for Leadership and Management in Tertiary Education
The University of Melbourne
Victoria, Australia