Exploring The Internationalisation Of Higher Education

What after all is internationalisation? Is it the same as globalisation? No. Globalisation and internationalization are related but not the same thing.

Globalization is a ‘process that focuses on the worldwide flow of ideas, resources, people, economy, values, culture, knowledge, goods, services, and technology.’ Basically it is the inter-connectedness that exists between all countries of the world today.

Internationalisation however, is related only to the inter-connectedness in education. It is described as ‘the process of integrating an international, intercultural and global dimension into the goals, teaching/learning, research and service functions of a university or higher education system’.

Internationalisation of higher education is at the same time a catalyst, a result of and also an agent of globalisation.

So if you watch a foreign language movie, or travel abroad for business that is globalisation but if you are studying locally in a ” foreign” university that is internationalisation.

The original goal of internationalisation was the helping of developing countries. Students were expected to complete a degree in another country and then return home to contribute to national development. However this goal is fading fast as nations compete in the 21st century brain race.

Internationalisation is the reality of the 21st century. Realising the need for education to be at par with global standards the universities of many countries are trying to introduce new policies and rules and put changes in place to encourage the flow of students to and from other countries, creating education hubs in other countries and more.

The efforts also include getting teachers and professors from abroad to teach courses and degrees, and sending teachers abroad to learn new teaching techniques and for exposure to different teaching environments. It also includes massive open online courses (MOOCs), websites, collaborative research projects and student exchanges.

Doing all this is not easy and can prove to be unprofitable in the long run. Internationalisation needs to meet individual needs and interests of each institution. Going through the process of change for the sake of it being a fad is not rational or appropriate. If the institution sees it as a tool for economic gain, partnership, mutual benefits or other advantage then only can it take steps towards it.

Universities are too often running short of cash and have to make decisions about which international projects they want to invest in, and which projects provide the most value for the institutions’ own aims and ambitions.

The motivations include to a great extent the economical advantages, new knowledge and language acquisition, enhancing the curriculum with international content, and many others.

Specific initiatives such as branch campuses, cross-border collaborations, programs for international students, establishing English-medium programs and degrees, and others have to be put into place as part of internationalisation.

Internationalisation has gone through decades of intense development . It has grown in scope, scale and importance. There is no question that it has transformed the world of higher education. It has also undergone fundamental changes itself. The key question is whether the changes have been for better or worse? The questions that it has raised are:

Has student mobility just become just good business for institutions instead of exchange of new ideas and initiatives?

Has the obsession with global rankings and the economic competitiveness agenda overtaken the original idea of reaching high standards of education excellence?

Has the focus of students shifted from acquiring skills and quality education to just holding the degree?

Is it becoming just a status building initiative to gain world class recognition and higher rankings, both for the student as well as the institution?

Are the degrees awarded or double diplomas given in fact dubious?

Are indigenous cultures getting hybridised or eroded as more and more students are crossing borders?

Are regional and global rankings of universities reliable and valid? Have the rankings become more of a promotional and branding exercise rather than an assessment of the goals, the teaching, research, and service functions of a university.

In spite of all these doubts, it is clear that inter -country scholarship, crossborder education exchange, and campus bases contribute to the positive development of individuals, institutions, nations, and the world at large.

The benefits of internationalisation are so many and so varied that potential risks and unintended consequences may be set aside for the moment.

Focussed, well-planned, well-executed, and well-documented progress toward the process—especially those using innovative and creative approaches can create significant strides towards higher quality education. However, infusing it into the ethos of institutions requires vision, leadership, and the employing of administrators, faculty and student services.

Universities in India must try to understand firstly what the knowledge economy is and how they can benefit or respond to it. What is a world-class university? Is it desirable for our country? How can we acquire one? Do we create it? Do we just get one from outside?

It has been estimated that by 2025 the demand for international education will grow to 7.2 million students- a quantum leap from 1.2 million students in 2000. There will be a greater flow of not only students, professors and researchers, but also education programmes, branch campuses, innovative ideas, in both developed and developing countries of the world.

This also has the potential to grow into a highly competitive multi-million dollar international recruitment business. By investing in major marketing campaigns attract the best and brightest talent to study and work in their institutions in order to supply the ‘brain power’ for innovation and research.

The latest trend is creating education hubs in other countries. It is heralded as the latest development in higher education. India must awaken to the potential of and would do well to set up education hubs in the Gulf region and South Eastern Asia in particular. The advantages of doing this are the geographical closeness, similarities in culture, and economic standards. However, the quality of education imparted and whether it can be sustained must be taken into consideration.

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