Is the future of internationalisation backward, forward, or different?

Is the future of internationalisation backward, forward, or different?

This is the first blog in a series of posts highlighting some of the 2014 EAIE Award winners, all of whom were recently honoured at the 26th Annual EAIE Conference in Prague for their outstanding achievements. Find out what John K. Hudzik, winner of the Transatlantic Leadership award, has to say about the future of internationalisation.

The current spate of international tensions and upheavals reminds us how fragile the environment can be for international education and mutual understanding. Barring the disintegration of global civil society, which recent events might lead some to conclude is possible, the global internationalisation of higher education will continue to grow. Besides, the alternative is unappealing for many obvious reasons, including that many of us might have to pursue alternative employment.

Forecasting is risky, almost always with a degree of error, at best partly science, mostly an art form, and perhaps some wishing. The following briefly engages in the speculative forecasting of the future patterns of higher education internationalisation. The answer to the question posed in the title is, I think, ‘forward differently’.

Drivers: The drivers of the future are many; space limits me to briefly consider four and their potential implications.

1. Globalisation

Problems, solutions, challenges and opportunities cross borders in all fields including economics, public health, safe food supply, the environment and security. The ease of global communication, movements of people and ideas, and the speed and openness of the internet constantly blend local with the global.

The playing field for competition and collaboration among knowledge economies is shifting from the local/national to a global frame of reference, and increasingly in high-level ideas and talent which are the products of higher education. Cutting edge knowledge requires connection to global pathways of learning, talent and ideas, and the connection of these pathways to core higher education missions—teaching/learning, research/scholarship and problem solving. Failure to connect marginalises higher education’s value and service to its students and society. The impacts of globalisation are not going away.

2. Global higher education capacity

The global development of higher education is a prime enabler of its internationalisation, and a potentially massive force for rebalancing the influence of various national and regional higher education systems. Space for students will increase from 100 to 250 million (possibly 300 million) between 2000 and 2025 or 2030; most of this expansion will occur outside the US, Europe and the Antipodes. Mobility is projected to increase from 2.3 million a decade ago to over 7 million by 2025. The elaboration of mobility models to include short and long term study abroad, degree seeking, non-credit-bearing study, active learning models and so forth will push total mobility numbers much higher. Mobility routes of students and scholars are also undergoing elaboration with ‘brain circulation’ patterns that are multi-directional. Research capacity is also spreading globally—Europe now accounts for about 22% of global R&D expenditures, the US about 29% and Asia about 36%. Cross-border co-authorship is also exploding, having grown 300% in the last 25 years.

3. Global middle class development

The middle class drives a wide range of consumer spending behaviors; the upper middle class in particular invests substantially in education. Massive growth in the world’s middle class is underway; global numbers will nearly triple from a few years ago to 4.9 billion by 2030, almost doubling in Latin America, tripling in Africa; Asia will contain two-thirds of the global middle class. The middle class will self-fund greater levels of higher education enrollment and mobility. Paying more out of pocket, buyers will search for the best in quality and cost, including across borders; market competition across higher education systems will increase.

4. Technology

Technology expands access and is demand absorbing. Its nearly unfettered use across borders massively supplements the existing super structure of education. Technology multiplies the time and space in which teaching/learning can occur and research collaborations take place. Education itself could become more unbundled and degrees disaggregated into smaller credential units. The global market place of higher education may come to incorporate a system of ‘parts suppliers’ and technology networks may develop a catalog of products to be assembled from a multitude of suppliers for virtual and physical access.

Speculation on implications

1. As in other markets (eg automobiles), the global widening of capacity and trade increases competition and options; this will be the case for mobile learners, scholars and cutting edge ideas. The best institutions will compete in a growing list of first-rate institutions for the best students and scholars. The competition could be more intense among institutions ranked within, say, the top 400 globally as desirable education and research destinations proliferate across all major world regions and as institutions chase stature. Global markets may regulate quality, price and trade patterns as much, or more than government regulation.

2. Who will define the rules and exercise global system influence? Higher education policy priorities, subject matter and pedagogies have been dominated by the ‘developed west’. With rising institutions of quality throughout the world, there may emerge declining interest in merely emulating western/developed models. How might the models and priorities of higher education diversify under a truly multi-cultural global higher education system?

3. Models and patterns of mobility will continue to proliferate and pressures will increase for high quality and competitive pricing. Active-learning study abroad models, as well as the blending of technology and face-to-face mobility along with mobility not-for-credit will expand. Some traditional ‘sending’ countries will become important ‘receiving’ countries. Unbundled learning opportunities may increase the appeal of more narrowly focused education abroad options and a stringing together of several such options in multiple locations.

4. As a result of capacity developing within all world regions, intra-regional mobility and institutional collaboration will expand as a means of cost control and convenience.

5. Pressures will increase for more cross-border institutional partnerships, alliances and networks for education and research. Motivations will include strengthening institutional reputation and its reach into other world regions and markets, as well as building institutional capacity in areas where going it alone is not possible because of insufficient intellectual horsepower or financial resources.

6. Internationalisation beyond teaching and learning to include research/scholarship and problem-solving engagement will alter the mix of institutional decision makers who shape the internationalisation agenda, priorities and collaborations. This will be particularly true of the influence of faculty and academic deans. An international office not linked effectively to the academic structures of the institution will be marginalised.

Other trends and implications come easily to mind, but this is enough in this blog to stir controversy.

Author: John K. Hudzik, Michigan State University and NAFSA Senior Scholar for Internationalization