Fanning flames of international debate

October 30, 2008

Sir Drummond Bone seems to think that the criticism that UK higher education institutions recruit overseas students just for the money is the result of a very small fire giving off rather a lot of smoke ("Concern that UK's overseas ventures oversold", 23 October). How certain is he that it is not a large fire behind the billowing fumes?

Research has already indicated that UK higher education institutions over-promise and under-deliver to international students. A quick check on how much effort any UK university puts into its recruitment of European Union (EU) students will tell you whether or not it is focused on money in its "international" activity. In UK higher education institutions, purely for funding reasons, the EU isn't "international".

Most UK universities initially recruited international students to make up the shortfall in public funding. But with the progressive reliance on such funding in an increasingly global higher education landscape, how much evidence can we show of institutional transformation to accommodate and adapt to these changes?

Many in UK higher education are unable to see a distinction between "international activities" and "internationalisation". The former is about recruiting international students, delivery of courses overseas and linking with international institutions.

The latter is the integration of academic, social, cultural, political and economic factors into teaching, learning and research. It is internationalisation that is needed to maintain and build on UK higher education's strengths and success in an increasingly competitive environment.

Christopher Sharrock, Stafford.

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