As someone involved in international higher education in both a professional and academic capacity, I started reading Christopher Bigsby’s piece “Sunny side up” (Opinion, 17 July) with great interest. But three or four thinly veiled insults in and I couldn’t help but think that the opinion itself was a load of “bat spit”.
For a start, Bigsby is talking not about “internationalisation” but about importing students and exporting programmes. They are indeed parts of an internationalisation agenda, but it covers a much wider spectrum (or at least it should), including internationalising the curriculum, development of interculturally competent graduates, international research and staff development. Bigsby also cites Theresa May as a cause of transnational education, and while I can agree that the Home Office has much to answer for in discouraging international students, transnational education was an important part of the UK’s higher education landscape prior to the coalition government.
Further, his examples exclude the big success stories to give a misleading impression: Nottingham’s Ningbo and Malaysia campuses; Liverpool’s partnership to form Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University; not to mention the University of London International Programmes, for example. These are not only successes commercially, but serve a genuine ideal of giving every student the opportunity of a first-rate education, irrespective of nationality, background and financial status (a key factor to get a visa to come to the UK). It is certainly true that some institutions have not made good decisions, but to say that decisions are made for the weather is dismissive of the good work being done overseas to increase domestic or regional capacity and thereby access to a quality higher education for all.