22 SES 13 A, Internationalisation Strategies and Performativity
Nordic countries have been generally very proactive in creating internationalisation policy frameworks for universities and have invested resources in initiatives and strategies to make it operational (Christensen et al., 2014; Stensaker et al., 2008). Our presentation will focus on the key policies and strategies of higher education policies in Sweden, a country that has put internationalisation on the map as early as the late 1970s. The perceived significance of this was connected to questions of cooperation with universities and academic staff across national borders as a national imperative (Maassen et al., 2004).
Since 2005, and the publication of a National Strategy on internationalization (Government Bill 2004/05:162), there have been continuing and important developments that connect to the Bologna and the 2020 Mobility strategy for the Higher Education Area, for instance (c.f. Government Bill 2008/09:175). A range of policy actors have been involved in these efforts and enactments. In addition to the Government, its agencies and the Higher Education Institutions themselves, actors such as the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT), student union organisations, the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF) and the Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF) have all been active in this area.
In recent years, the issue has been put on the Swedish higher education policy agenda. In 2015 central stakeholders from the Swedish institute, two national agencies (UKÄ and UHR) and SUHF sent a petition to the Ministry of Education, requesting the current strategy from 2005 should be revised and updated (Petition to the Ministry of Education, 2015). This petition had been preceded by a report from the leading student union, pointing to the lack of HEI strategies on internationalisation (SFS, 2014). In February 2017, the Government appointed a new Commission on this area with the remit to propose a revised national strategy on internationalisation and to propose new measures to increase the attractiveness of Swedish universities (Government Committee Direction, 2017). A preliminary commission report will be published in early 2018.
Our objective in this paper is to map policy developments in this area since the early 2000s, and to examine the main focus, rationales and justifications for the policy goal of ‘internationalisation of HE’ in Sweden. In particular, we shall focus on:
(a) Who are the main policy stakeholders in this field and what are their particular emphasis with regard to internationalization?
(b) What aspects of internationalization do the policy documents identify as necessary and what are the main rationales provided for this (in relation to students, staff mobility, research and knowledge exchange, other activities)?
(c) Is there a shift of emphasis, focus or rationale for HE internationalization over this period?
Our theoretical and methodological premise is that despite the globally-spread idea of internationalisation having been adopted in many countries, the particular national and institutional norms of HE filter internationalisation – with distinct outcomes in terms of how universities with different histories and in different national contexts adopt its norms and values (Christensen, et al., 2014; Gomes et al., 2012). The study therefore explores how the Swedish norms and cultures of higher education policy interact with internationalisation and in the process are both affected by it, but also shape it in certain directions. In this context, we view internationalisation as a system and an institutional set of goals, distinct from marketing exercises and ad hoc international links, and we adopt de Wit’s definition, as “a process to introduce intercultural, international, and global dimensions in higher education; to improve the goals, functions, and delivery of higher education; and thus to upgrade the quality of education and research” (2011:7).
Our methodology entails a critical analysis of internationalisation policies and rationales. We shall concentrate in the period post-2000 which coincides with the more systematic and intense internationalisation strategies. The data set consists of different types of policy documents and supplementary materials, in particular connected to preparing and developing the national Swedish strategies for internationalization in Higher Education. Central sources of empirical data are thus the official publications on HE and internationalisation produced at different stages of the political decision-making processes, in the form of for instance Government Committee Directions, Commission- and Ministry reports, Government Bills and transcribed Parliamentary debates. These documents are particular suitable for unveiling and analysing perceived policy problems, solutions, rationales and justifications in these processes. In addition, we also analyse supplementary materials produced by central stakeholders, such as the previously mentioned interest groups, organizations and unions, collected by searching their websites and/or repositories.
Our analysis highlight ways in which the country responds to the perceived values, benefits as well as challenges of the knowledge economy of the future (Christensen et al., 2014; Pinheiro et al., 2014), an issue that has been considered as a priority in relation to recent higher education reform (Government Committee Direction, 2017). In adopting a wide-ranging definition of internationalization processes we expect that Swedish stakeholders and policy actors engage with discourses of internationalisation (and the underpinning globalization arguments) in ways that are distinct from other countries, where internationalisation has been developed for different higher education policy and institutional contexts (such as the US or the UK). Even though there are overlaps in the rationales for engaging with the process, there are also certain distinctive features of the Swedish higher education field, that shape how internationalization is understood and enacted. The ‘national embeddedness’ of a ‘globally’ spread idea would be relevant to highlight and discuss across different European settings, and we hope this analysis of the Swedish case may contribute to such a discussion. This study represents the first stage in a larger new research project that will examine the governing mechanisms of internationalization of universities; the mediation of policies at the level of universities and faculties; and, the experiences of international and national academic staff in Swedish universities, funded by the Swedish Research Council (2018-2021).
Christensen, T., Gornitzka, Å. & Maassen, P. 2014. Global pressures and national cultures. A Nordic university template?. In P. Mattei (Ed). University Adaptation in Difficult Economic Times. Oxford Scholarship Online. de Wit, H. 2011. Internationalisation of HE: Nine misconceptions. International HE, 64, 6-7. Gomes, A.M., Robertson, S.L. & Dale, R. 2012. The social condition of higher education: Globalisation and (beyond) regionalization in Latin America. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 10:2, 221-246. Government Bill 2004:05:162. Regeringens proposition 2004/05:162. Ny värld - ny högskola [New world, new Higher Education]. Stockholm: Utbildnings- och kulturdepartementet. Government Bill 2008/09:175. Regeringens proposition 2008/09:175. Gränslös kunskap - högskolan i globaliseringens tid [Borderless knowledge. Higher Education in an era of globalisation]. Stockholm: utbildningsdepartementet. Maassen, P., Nokkala, T. & Uppstrøm, T.M. 2004. Internationalisation of higher education institutions in Northern Europe in the light of Bologna – National and Institutional Case Studies. Oslo: NIFU STEP. Stensaker, B., Frølich, N. Gornitzka, Å., Maasen, P. 2008. Internationalisation of higher education: The gap between national policy-making and institutional needs. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 6:1, 1-11. Government Committee Direction 2017. Ökad internationalisering av universitet och högskolor [increasing internationalisation in Higher Education]. Dir. 2017:19. Stockholm: Utbildningsdepartementet. Pinheiro, R., Geschwind, L. & Aarrevaara, T. 2014. Nested tensions and interwoven dilemmas in HE: The view from the Nordic countries. Cambridge J. of Regions, Economy and Society, 7, 233-250. Petition to the Ministry of Education (2015). Ett gemensamt inspel till en sammanhållen strategi för internationalisering av svensk högre utbildning [A joint comment on the need for a strategy of internationalising Swedish Higher Education]. Dnr U2015/03201/UH. Stockholm: Ministry of Education. SFS (2014). Räcker det med undervisning på engelska? En granskning av strategier för internationalisering av högre utbildning [Is teaching in English enough? A review of strategies for internationalisation in Higher Education]. Stockholm: Sveriges Förenade Studentkårer.
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