Who’s afraid of the big bad strategy? Where the EAIE is heading 2016–2020

Who’s afraid of the big bad strategy? Where the EAIE is heading 2016–2020

In the past I have sometimes wondered about the relevance of various internationalisation strategies, be they institutional, national or European. Do they really manifest themselves in the day-to-day lives of international higher education practitioners? After having been intimately involved with the development of a new 2016–2020 EAIE strategy as the Vice-President, I am acutely aware of such doubts and concerns. How will our new strategy relate to those working towards making our universities and other institutions ever more international? How do we translate the strategy into concrete action?

It should not come as a surprise that as President I firmly believe in focusing and prioritising the activities and actions of the EAIE, based on the new strategy. As ominous as it may sound, this may also require us to change course – to perhaps cease doing certain things so that we may embark upon something new.

Our current reality

In order to understand where the EAIE is heading, it is very important to understand where we are currently. It is somewhat of a luxury to develop a strategy for a very successful organisation. The EAIE is definitely doing very well, as the 5200 participants in Liverpool would certainly testify. It is not only about the annual conference; our training, publications and other activities are also very well received and we are gaining ground in being recognised as the voice of international higher education practitioners. But if this is the case, what is the need for a new strategy and where will it take us?

Adapting to changing times

To start answering that question, I only have to look at Europe and what is happening to the continent, both generally and in terms of international higher education. We started the strategy-making process before the full force of the refugee influx was upon us or Brexit was a reality. It is very clear that EAIE members and other people working in international higher education must be vigilant and ready to adapt to new realities and changing circumstances. And the EAIE must stay relevant in helping them do so. The new strategy tasks the entire EAIE community to be cognizant of these changes and to contribute towards resolving issues such as Brexit and the European refugee situation. In order to address issues of this magnitude and to be effective, we should also be prepared to come together as a collaborative community and to bridge organisational borders and boundaries.

European footprint

The second important driver of the strategy comes from the realisation that with all our success and best efforts, there are still countries and regions in Europe, where we have not had as much reach. The new strategy will challenge us all to think about how we can give even more impact to the first ‘E’ in EAIE, namely European. Having more members from underepresented countries, catering for participants from all parts of Europe and thereby increasing our European footprint is quite a task – one which might even require changing some well-established practices in order to be more accessible. In the end though, this is the only way we can stay relevant going forward.
I want to acknowledge the very good work put in by the 2014–2016 EAIE Board, General Council, Expert Communities, Committees and last, but not least, the staff at our Amsterdam Office. Without all of your input, our future direction would not be as well-charted as it is now!
Drawing up a strategy is one thing, but implementing it can be even more challenging. I am really excited to start putting the new strategy into practice together with the great EAIE community, now as the President. I’m sure that I’m not the only one. Stay tuned for the official launch of the 2016–2020 EAIE Strategy, happening in the coming months.
There is no reason to be afraid of the big bad strategy. It will not bite….much.

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.