Characteristics of an Internationalised University - Vol 3

As a result of the first Colloquium Series on Internationalisation in Higher Education in 2004, the Office for International Education of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University produced a publication entitled, Internationalisation of Higher Education: A Policy Framework, which contained the papers presented at the Colloquium. The Colloquium Series was established to “…debate holistically the characteristics of an internationalised higher education institution or system” (Jooste and Naude, 2005). In 2006, we continued the debate at a Colloquium entitled Characteristics of an Internationalised University, with presenters from the United States, Germany and South Africa. The presenters provided perspectives on internationalisation that ranged from theoretical to practical, providing a stimulating program for the audience of African, South African, German and American Colloquium attendees. The four presenters approached the topic of internationalisation from various perspectives, so there was no common definition of the term “internationalisation.” For the sake of this introduction however, it may be useful to use a definition that suggests internationalisation is “…the process of integrating an international, inter-cultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education” (Knight, 2004).

Although the topic of internationalising the university is several decades old, there is still concern that there is more “lip service” given to the topic, than actual progress in implementation. It has been suggested that many (if not most) programs “…suffer from fragmentation, fiscal starvation, lack of integration…” and are based on conceptually weak approaches to the process (Mestenhauser, 2002). The papers included in this volume address many of the issues related to internationalisation and provide recommendations for a means of benchmarking an institution’s efforts against what is considered good practice.

Professor Mestenhauser in: Characteristics of an Internationalised Uni- versity: Theoretical Perspective, suggests that a systemic perspective is needed when thinking about internationalising the campus; globalisation is changing the way nations and people think every day, and simplistic thinking will not allow us to keep abreast of those changes and under- stand their meaning. He believes that a static view of the world is a ter-

rible model on which to base an international program at a university. He 

calls upon us to move toward more interdisciplinary thinking and use mul- tiple frames of reference when trying to understand the world condition, and when trying to develop international programs and activities to help others understand the rapidly changing world in which we live. Although he understands the need for benchmarking activities, such as the number of students studying abroad and the number of international scholars on campuses, he warns against allowing these measures to lull us into think- ing that we have truly internationalised the university.

 

Doctor Nico Jooste in: Characteristics of an Internationalised University in South Africa, agrees with Prof. Mestenhauser that a simplistic and frag- mented approach to internationalisation is unacceptable. He introduces the work of Castells on the network society, and suggests that networks of universities are needed to effectively address internationalisation in the university. He notes that the challenge of transforming a higher educa- tion system from the shackles of Apartheid to a system with equal access to all, is both the motivation to intensify South African efforts, and a possible detractor of those efforts. He makes a convincing case for in- ternationalisation efforts on the African continent, and at the same time forming networks with active partner institutions around the world.

Axel Markert in: Characteristics of an Internationalised University: A Euro- pean Perspective provides a glimpse of the changing international scene in Germany. He urges greater care in defining internationalisation and then prioritising the activities for which there is adequate funding. He notes that change in universities is, and has been gradual, and that any change requires leadership continuity. He notes that his thirty plus years tenure at Tubingen University allowed him to see some significant interna- tional activities implemented. One in particular, which has since migrated to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, is a yearly networking activity for international partners where there is discussion on specific issues per- taining to the relationships, and an opportunity to explore more general topics of internationalisation.

Doctor Richard Wilcox in: Characteristics of an International Education Leader, focuses on the leadership qualities of one who would lead cam- pus internationalisation efforts. In the activities prior to the Colloquium, a colleague was thinking aloud about some of the dangers of going into 

the ‘African wild’. The response from Dr. Wilcox and his colleagues was, “Africa isn’t for sissies.” He notes, in so many words that, “internationali- sation isn’t for sissies either.” He notes the competencies that require one to be a champion of the international cause, with the proper courage to challenge the system, and conceptualise international efforts in meaning- ful and strategic ways.

The papers in this publication do not provide “how to do it” strategies, but rather provide much “food for thought” for those wishing to move forward with efforts to internationalise their institutions. The papers in this volume represent the collective wisdom and experience of seasoned international educators, who have studied best practice, fought many battles to make constructive change, and have emerged through it all as champions of internationalisation, hoping to share their insights and ideas.

Dr DONALD DELLOW

Associate Professor of Adult, Career and Higher Education Interim Director of Study Abroad, University of South Florida.

References:

Jooste, N. and Naude, E. 2005 Internationalisation of Higher Education: A Policy Framework, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: Port Elizabeth

Knight, J. 2004 “Internationalisation Remodelled: Definitions, Rationales and Approaches”, In Journal for Studies in International Education.

Volume 8, Number 1: 5-31.

Mestenhauser, J.A. 2002 “In Search of a Comprehensive Approach to In- ternational Education: A systems Perspective”. In Grunsweig, W and Rine- hart, N. (eds), Rockin’ In Red Square: Critical Approaches to International Education in the Age of Cyberculture: Lit Verlag Munster: Hamburg.

Please Download the full colloquium booklet HERE