10 best ways to fail a Strategic Internationalisation Plan

10 best ways to fail a Strategic Internationalisation Plan

A Strategic Internationalisation Plan (SIP) not only needs to be well conceived and written, but also well implemented. Most higher education institutions have their own SIP either as a plan of its own or have internationalisation as part of a broader institutional strategic plan. But how many of those are both well designed and actually implemented? In this blog post, I will just focus on the first part: on the drawing up of the SIP and the main pitfalls that one should avoid.

1. “Let’s copy-paste this SIP”

Taking a SIP from another institution as a reference or example is fine. We do not need to reinvent the wheel every time, right? And we all do that! If you wish, you can even use the fancy word of ‘benchmarking’ when you do that. But beware! Copy-pasting a SIP, even if you introduce slight changes to it, is a dangerous thing and will most probably backfire! Every university is a world of its own and when drafting a strategic document one should be aware of the context and the singularity of each institution. What works for you will most probably not work for me or I would have to adapt what you do to my own context and circumstances, and do it well! So I have no problem sharing my SIP with the world and if you want to copy-paste it, be my guest… at your own risk, of course!

2. I already know my institution”

We think we know our institution well, and we do, but from our own perspective, which can be very different from someone else’s perspective. This is why it would be a mistake to start writing a SIP without a good diagnosis study. The diagnosis is very much needed so that you do not start on false grounds and you stem from a wide agreement of what the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities your institution is facing at the moment. So do you really know your institution? You may be surprised!

3. “Our goal will get clearer on the way”

Vision is key! Where do we want our institution to be in five years’ time? What about in ten years’ time? If we know where we are heading, it will be easier to identify the steps needed to get there. But what happens when we just start walking? Well, we could very easily go in circles, or one day find ourselves in a place where we did not want to go, so sit for a moment to make sure that you have a clear vision of what future you would like for your institution before you write about the steps to take to get there.

4. “I can write a SIP, no problem”

Sure you can! The thing is: do you want to? Writing a SIP is not – or should not be – a one-man-job. For a SIP to be successful, it needs to be adopted by as many people within an institution as possible, so my advice is: start from the beginning with as many key players as possible, make them contribute and they will help you throughout… remember: it is not your plan, it is your institution’s plan.

5. “Let’s include everything we are already doing”

Some institutions opt for an easier formula of SIP. Instead of defining a diagnosis and working on a vision, they just put in a document what they already do. That’s fine, but that’s not strategic thinking and it is not forward planning it is just putting everything that we have ended up doing on paper. So let’s not call this a SIP, shall we? In this case, we should definitely drop the ‘S’ and the ‘P’.

6. “Communication strategy? I already have enough with writing my strategy”

Drawing up a SIP is not easy, it takes time and energy and one deals with quite a bit of frustration on the way, so we tend to say no to everything that’s not a must during this time. One would think that a communication strategy is not a must, but in my opinion they would be wrong. If the SIP needs to be adopted by the whole institution, we need to communicate it and offer ways so that everyone feels ownership of the plan, so my advice is: communicate, communicate, communicate.

7. “I need the SIP ready for next Monday”

Does this sentence sound familiar? Well, I can understand vice-rectors or managers who say those things, but if you want a real SIP, a good one, well… that’s just impossible! It needs time! We need to complete its different phases in order to build up a good plan, one that can take us far… so one possible answer would be “Sure… if you want the SIP to take us all the way till next Friday only”.

8. Money, money, money

Isn’t money always an issue? Budgeting our SIP can be tricky. While some cultural contexts will need a detailed budget and to know where every penny will come from before approving a SIP, others would not approve a SIP if it contained such detailed finances, as that may trigger a huge discussion within the institution as to why so much funding goes to internationalisation instead of ‘my’ research or ‘my salary’… so again context is king and regarding the money issue, this statement cannot be truer.

9. Follow-up?

You may think that the follow-up of the plan only comes after the plan is approved and as we are talking here about writing the plan, this does not concern us and you could be right. But in my SIP I have made sure there is a part which addresses how the follow-up of the plan will be done. This has saved me many headaches afterwards, and I hope it can save you some as well.

10. Fill in the blanks _______________

I am sure there are many more very creative ways to fail at drawing up a SIP, as writing a SIP is not easy, as you may have inferred or even experienced yourself. Do you want to share a new one not covered above? Then fill in the blanks and send a comment. I am listening…

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Marina Casals Sala
Universitat Rovira i Virgili, SpainMarina Casals Sala is Director of International Relations at Universitat Rovira i Virgili. She is also a previous member of both the EAIE Board and General Council, in addition to being a trainer with the EAIE Academy.