Universities worldwide are increasingly opening their doors to peer institutions in other countries. But the enthusiasm for internationalisation is accompanied by reservations. Ross Hudson, co-author of a report called Internationalization of Higher Education: Growing expectations, fundamental values, IAU 4th Global Survey and published today, summarises the main findings.
What are the trends of internationalisation?
Universities and policy makers in the sector consider internationalisation to be one of the most significant aspects of an institutional strategy. Institutions world-wide are focusing on internationalisation: 53 per cent of those who responded to our survey said their institution has an internationalisation policy or strategy and 22 per cent said that one is in preparation. 16 per cent indicated that internationalisation forms part of their institution's overall strategy.
As the process has grown in importance, so too has the variety and complexity of strategies and activities developed in its name. Indeed, developing ways to increase the benefits that come with internationalising, while reducing the risks and barriers, has become an important challenge for higher education leaders.
Who took part in the survey?
To help leaders act on and understand the benefits and risks of internationalisation, the International Association of Universities (IAU) -- with support from the British Council, the European Commission, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and the European Association for International Education (EAIE) -- sent an electronic survey to heads of institutions and/or international relations in more than 6,800 universities in every region of the world. When the survey closed in September 2013, the IAU had received completed questionnaires from 1,336 higher education institutions (20 per cent) in 131 different countries. This report is therefore the largest and geographically widest collection and analysis of primary data on internationalisation ever produced.
What do universities consider to be the benefits of internationalisation?
Student knowledge of international issues is regarded as the most significant benefit of internationalisation and was noted by 32 per cent of respondents. Respondents further detailed that the values of equity and the sharing of internationalisation's benefits were central features in their approach to internationalise their institutions. So, it's no surprise that student mobility and international research collaboration are the highest-priority internationalisation activities, and cited as such by 29 and 24 percent of respondents respectively.
What risks and obstacles do universities identify?
Limited funding is a major internal and external obstacle to advancing internationalisation. This finding was also true in the two previous IAU Global Surveys, as internationalisation comes at a financial cost. But this is not only a concern at institutional level. For 31 per cent of respondents, the problem of international opportunities being available only to students with financial resources was ranked as the most significant potential risk of internationalisation for institutions. The most significant societal risk, as 19 per cent of respondents stated, was the commercialisation of education.
In the majority of regions, respondents indicated that their geographic focus for internationalisation is on their own region. Europe is also a strong focus for most regions.
The IAU survey will be further discussed at Going Global 2014, the conference for leaders in higher education worldwide, in Miami on 1 May 2014.