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The internationalisation of higher education: two recent studies

Universities are becoming increasingly more international, and at a genuinely rapid rate. An earlier report from the British Council highlighted student global mobility and the emergence of transnational higher education as two of the four most significant trends in the sector worldwide. Transnational education involves students studying towards a qualification from another country while staying in their home country.

It is intriguing, though, that internationalisation can occur whether students are willing to travel to another country, and also when they stay at home while another country comes to them, as it were.

Two of the students who have most recently completed the University’s EdD in Higher Education have highlighted a set of ways forward in relation to these two trends. Dr Jason Beckerman graduated in December 2015, and Sally Stafford will graduate at the next opportunity in July 2016.

Study abroad doesn’t need to be for a full year

Dr Jason Beckerman’s research comes at the issue of student mobility from a fascinating angle. He addressed ways in which short term study abroad trips can result in transformative learning for the students concerned. His study focused on students from New York University Abu Dhabi who travelled to Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. It was clear that the trips affected the way in which students oriented themselves to their future endeavours, and helped students to realise that through their studies they were able to make an impact on the wider world.

The report by the British Council indicated that the number of students studying away from their home country increased from 800,000 students in the mid-1970s to over 3.5 million in 2009. While the increase is impressive, it still represents a genuinely modest proportion of the overall number of students in higher education. In fact, the proportion of students with outbound mobility has remained constant since the 1990s at a little over 2% each year. These figures, though, relate to students undertaking relatively long periods of study abroad. Given the importance of understanding across cultures and countries to global society at large, Beckerman’s thesis supports the contention that greater recognition needs to be paid to short-term study abroad. His thesis is available in the University’s research repository.

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Dr Jason Beckerman at his graduation ceremony in December 2015.
Integrating transnational ventures into the institution

Meanwhile, a second report from the British Council on the shape of things to come has noted that it is critical that programmes of transnational education are of a high quality. The report observed that transnational education is becoming an increasingly important component of internationalisation.

Sally Stafford’s research thus addresses a key area for the sector, the need for TNE (transnational education) initiatives to contribute to an institution’s internationalisation strategy. Her thesis was entitled ‘Strengthening institutional management of transnational higher education: Implications derived from a thematic analysis of the Cycle 2 audit reports of the Australian Universities Quality Agency’.

In building a broader knowledge base for those responsible for institutional and programmer strategies guiding transnational education initiatives, Stafford identified the importance of aligning transnational education initiatives with overall university mission and objectives. Other lessons that emerged from her research were the importance of integrating the transnational education venture into institutional structure and its governance and management processes. Her thesis will be available from the University’s research repository after her graduation in July.

It is essential that research into higher education explicitly shapes the things that are to come in higher education. And our congratulations go to these two colleagues for their research, and their doctoral qualifications.

Dr Peter Kahn PFHEA

Director of Studies, EdD in Higher Education