Uwe Brandenburg, managing director of higher education consulting firm CHE Consult and former international director at Humboldt University of Berlin, said that many institutions implement internationalisation strategies “because everyone else does it” but that usually means they do not measure the outcomes on staff and students and adapt their policies accordingly. He cited the effects on student and staff mindset and personality traits in particular.
He added that internationalisation should not be a focus in and of itself for institutions but should be used as a method of improving “what universities do anyway”, including teaching, research, social engagement and preparing students for a globalised world.
“A few universities measure this but most assume it has a good effect. Universities cannot assume it is doing good, they must ensure it is,” he said.
Hans de Wit, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, added that universities cannot rely exclusively on recruitment of international students and staff as “fluctuations in the market can have a negative impact” on this, citing the cuts to Brazil’s Science Without Borders programme as an example.
“A more comprehensive approach to internationalisation will pay off more, as it diversifies the student population and reaches all students, including the local ones,” he said.
However, Daniel Obst, deputy vice-president for international partnerships at the Institute of International Education, said that universities are already improving in this area and have become “much more data-driven” around internationalisation in recent years.
“They are looking not just at the anecdotal benefits of internationalisation but what it means in terms of new research dollars coming in because of international partnerships, for example. Fifteen years ago that was not so much the case.”
Dr Obst said that the most successful internationalisation policies are strategic, campus-wide and centralised, adding that university partnerships are often the most effective way of attracting international staff and students and generating mobility.