18 Oct 2012

Tips for managing the international office of your university

Managing the international office of your universityHave you recently started working in a managing position in an international office? Then you are undoubtedly faced with many challenges and issues: interesting ones and annoying ones. You will of course be competent enough to cope with the majority of these challenges yourself. However, there is always one issue that keeps on returning on your desk, that continues to chase you during the day or perhaps haunt you during the night. It could be related to strategy, organisation models, managing people, finance, time management, communication etc, perhaps even one of the following:

  • My rector is not interested in internationalisation. How do I still gain his support?
  • One of my staff members is ill for a long period, and I do not get a replacement. Help!
  • One of my staff members is not motivated, underperforms and is counting his days for his retirement. How do I bring back some enthusiasm?
  • I do not get enough money to achieve the objectives they expect me to achieve. What can I do?
  • My management plans to mainstream internationalisation, which means breaking up my international office and scattering its bits and pieces all around the university. How do I stop them?
  • My boss does not understand me, and does not want to listen. How do I catch the attention that I deserve?
  • I create glossy folders, send weekly e-newsletters, tweet like crazy and administer an International Office Facebook account. And still the departments do not notice us.
  • Yesterday the focus was on research partnerships in China, today we should put all priority on recruiting master students from Europe; and I was just informed that our future is solely dependent on the development of an International Summer School. How do I create one, long lasting, international strategy?

Do you recognise yourself in any of these dilemmas? Yes? The bad news is: this comes with the job of International Relations Manager, there is not much you can do about it. The good news is: there is help at hand, called ‘peer consulting’.

Peer consulting, what’s different?

Discussing your professional problems with colleagues that you trust, isn’t that as old as time? So what makes ‘peer consulting’ so different?

  • You do not know your peers and they do not know you. Fresh, fair and unbiased advice is guaranteed.
  • An environment facilitating combined knowledge and experience to trigger the best professional advice possible. Your peers all work in international offices, they know how things work. They are the best consultants, not theoretical academics that just talk in models.
  • A context of strict confidentiality is provided. This creates an open atmosphere and stimulates a fair expression of ideas.
  • A strict procedure is followed in order to get at the heart of the problem and to prevent pub talk solutions.

In the unlikely event that you are one of the unique international relations managers that never struggles with seemingly unsolvable problems, you will be the perfect peer consultant: helping your colleagues to solve their problems; and perhaps picking up interesting new knowledge and insights yourself.

What else is there?

Have you heard of the International Office (IO) managers’ tool box? It contains practical instruments ready to be used to create solutions for all sorts of problems you may encounter as an International Office Manager. Examples are:

  • The Boat Game to create quick mutual understanding in a group.
  • The SWOT Analysis to develop strategic priorities.
  • The International Office Task List to rationalise the activities of an IO
  • International Office Organisation Models to structure your office
  • The core quadrant game to better understand your own qualities and pitfalls
  • The leadership grid to make your leadership style explicit
  • The priority matrix to use your precious time effectively

How do you solve your challenges in your international office? Have you ever practised peer consulting? In what kind of setting?

You can learn more about all these topics and experience peer consulting with professionals from across Europe by joining the EAIE Academy course ‘Managing an international office today’ in Porto from 19–21 November. Register by 29 October 2012 to secure your spot!

By Wessel Meijer

Wessel Meijer is Deputy Director of the International Office of Radboud University Nijmegen and leading the team ‘projects and networks’. He is also an EAIE Academy trainer.