Top priorities in higher education internationalisation in Europe

Top priorities in higher education internationalisation in Europe

Internationalisation of higher education might not be considered quite as compelling as Woody Allen’s 1972 film about sex, but with the publication of the EAIE Barometer all involved in the field, from practitioners to policy makers, have a horn of plenty available to them. Usually rectors, vice chancellors and other higher education leaders get to have their say when it comes to the state of play in higher education internationalisation. In the Barometer, the practitioners’ points of view get uncovered.

Giving practitioners a voice

It would not be fair to say that the views of practitioners are in stark contrast to institutional leaders, but the truth is that there are some noticeable differences between those on the ground vis-a-vis policymakers. Through the Barometer, the EAIE offers a richer and deeper picture of recent developments and future directions in the field.
Now that almost 2500 voices from over 30 countries have been heard, what is the conclusion? One unquestionable result is that there are still tremendous differences from country to country, and from institution to institution. The European Higher Education Area and its institutions are at very different stages when it comes to internationalisation. It is also crystal clear that practitioners of internationalisation are very aware of their needs in terms of skill and knowledge in order to perform better.

Knowledge and skill ‘wish list’

Partnership development, project and programme management, and acquiring more language skills top the ‘wish lists’ of the people tasked with furthering their institutions’ internationalisation efforts. Moreover, they are hungry for information on latest trends and how to develop an institutional internationalisation strategy. At the country level, deviations from general European trends are clearly discernible. In Flemish Belgium, Estonia, The Russian Federation and Spain, marketing skills top the list of identified skills needed. In Ireland, it is knowledge of international curriculum development that comes to the fore.
In order to further develop the knowledge and skills of internationalisation staff, an accurate idea of the challenges they face, the knowledge and skills they possess, and the institutional and national realities in which they operate, are crucial aspects. These are some of the specific issues covered by the EAIE Barometer. Yet while knowledge of these issues is important, it is hardly enough. So what is the solution to shortage of skills and knowledge?

Solutions a plenty

It is clear that experts need further and continuous training, sources of additional information, and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Fortunately, the EAIE provides these opportunities to its members and the international higher education community at large. Aside from excellent opportunities for benchmarking, networking and mutual learning, the EAIE annual conference programme covers topics identified by Barometer respondents as key areas for knowledge development. Additionally, the EAIE’s training activities can help bridge the knowledge and skill gaps exposed by the Barometer.
If European higher education institutions want to take internationalisation seriously, they should make sure their staff has sufficient opportunities for skill and knowledge development, as well as access to the right tools and resources. Perhaps claiming that the Barometer will tell you all the top priorities is somewhat of a stretch, but this excellent resource can go a long way in helping internationalise higher education in Europe.

By Markus Laitinen, EAIE Vice-President

Markus Laitinen
University of Helsinki, FinlandMarkus Laitinen is Head of International Affairs of the University of Helsinki and is the immediate past President of the EAIE.