Report: Mutual influence? Universities, cities and the future of internationalisation

Title

Mutual influence? Universities, cities and the future of internationalisation

Date

Friday 21 April 2017

Author

James Ransom - Policy Researcher at Universities UK, and a doctoral student at UCL Institute of Education. He undertook this research in an independent capacity

Foreword by Bianka Stege, Director Education & Society, EU, British Council

About

This report is aimed at leaders and planners within universities and cities. It analyses university and city internationalisation activity within four medium-sized European cities: Amsterdam, Dublin, Glasgow and Hannover.

Section one introduces the concept of ‘strategic internationalisation’: activity that is targeted and tailored to place, positioning and partnerships. It is long-term, deliberate and part of a wider vision of the future of the city.

Section two provides a high-level overview of models of collaboration in the four cities. The make-up of institutions and priorities differs from one city to another, and although universities and cities may have different missions and objectives, they can unite around the unique focal point of place that they both share. However, there is often a key individual, in many cases from the city, that brings people together.

Section three draws six findings from a series of interviews with key individuals in each city:

  1. Internationalisation is core business, a means to realising the broader development strategy of cities and universities. It is cross-cutting and seen as integral to future success.
  2. Cities are rarely uniformly internationalised: there are pockets of activity (normally at the centre) and marginalised areas. City and university planners should work together to bring the benefits of internationalisation to marginalised parts of cities and their hinterland.
  3. University staff and city officials share a good understanding of the city’s position within the country and the wider region. Place is inextricably linked to identity, and to internationalisation.
  4. Through a range of activities from cultural events to educating students, universities and cities are redefining the meaning of internationalisation.
  5. Understanding areas of overlap is important for effective university-city cooperation. There are areas of mutual influence, such as marketing. There are areas of mutual dependence, such as housing. But there are often opportunities to work together on other strategic issues that make the most of local strengths.
  6. Models for collaboration should be developed locally by university and city leaders, rather than imported from ‘best practice’.

Section four concludes that working together on internationalisation brings shared advantages for universities and cities, and that the positive collaborations outlined in this report are replicable in cities all over the world. However, the international futures of universities and cities are threatened by populism and protectionism. Leaders and planners will need to make the case for internationalisation and free movement of people, they need to measure and demonstrate the impact of their work, and the social and economic benefits of internationalisation need to be aligned and evenly distributed.

The report concludes with recommendations for different audiences.

Main findings:

  1. Models for collaboration should be developed locally by university and city leaders, rather than imported from ‘best practice’. The make-up of institutions and priorities will differ markedly from one city to another, and although universities and cities may have different missions, objectives, stakeholders, even language, they can unite around the unique focal point of place that they both share. However, there is often a key individual, often from the city, that brings people together
  2. Cities and universities should utilise international students, and domestic students with language skills or international experience, as part of trade delegations, to help form new partnerships and to share their knowledge and experience with the local community.
  3. In cities with little or no existing mechanism for university-city collaboration, the British Council may wish to convene an initial meeting to scope future activity and play an active role in linking universities and cities. Further research may wish to consider internationalisation in smaller cities.