22 SES 07 A, Internationalisation in Higher Education: Adaptations and Perspectives
In the last three decades, internationalization has become one of the most crucial priorities of scholars and policy makers in higher education. Although, the notion of internationalization had always been a defining feature of the “university” throughout history (De Wit, 2002; Enders, 2004; Marginson, 2000; Yang, 2002), political, economic, social and cultural developments over the last three decades have resulted in a new understanding of internationalization in higher education. In the new understanding of the concept and practice of internationalization, global, national and institutional level networks interact in complex way and reshape practices in at the university. Some scholars argue that higher education can no longer be viewed in a strictly national context (Qiang, 2003) and internationalization became indispensable for universities to survive in an increasingly competitive environment. De Wit (2011) stated that recently the international dimension of higher education has become more central on the agenda of international organizations, national governments, higher education institutions. Internationalization has been shifted from being a marginal mainstream activity to an integral part of university strategy (De Wit & Hunter, 2014).
In this study it is argued that internationalization trends cause multifaceted conflicts at all levels of the university. In other words, the needs and expectations of the institutions (nomethetic dimension) conflicts with the needs, expectation and orientations of the staff members (particularly academic staff members) (idiographic dimension). We argue that these conflicts are largely related to the change and transformation movement caused by internationalization. The universities have a unique history, value system, formal and informal structures, and routines which have been established throughout a long history. Similarly, the academic profession has its own proven norms and value system. However, global trends in higher education have been pushing the “university” and academics to adapt new practices. Being one of these practices, internationalization also brings its own structures and value system, which require systems, universities and individual academics adapt new structures, value systems, behaviors, roles, and understanding. Hence, we argue that tensions between the institutional structures and emerging internationalization dynamics at institutional and individual level are highly visible in the academic context.
Neo-institutionalism and the critique of neo-liberalism guided this study. The neo-institutionalist framework explains the similarities of the institutions with the others in their environment. One of the core concepts of the neo-institutionalist theory is the concept of isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) according to which institutions resemble other institutions in their institutional environment. Oliver (1997) explained that tendency towards conformity with pre-determined norms and traditions lead to homogeneity in structures and activities and to become legitimate by social environment. Moreover, the critique of neo-liberalism theory is used to explain the sources of conflicts emerged in universities. The main premises of neo-liberal theory are commercialization and standardization, one-size-fits-all solutions, more market-oriented policies. In terms of education, neo-liberal policies cause west-dominated academic world, commodification of educational policies, more skilled work force for competitive labor market etc. In terms of internationalization, these policies become a source of conflict by itself which causes internationalization to become a means to compete with the other universities in terms of rankings, publications etc.
Utilizing these two theoretical frameworks, this study investigates internationalization process from the perspective of different key constituencies of the university. The study specifically aims at revealing the conflicts between institutionalized structures and emergent dynamics in relation to internationalization from the perspective of academics, administrative staff members and academic leaders at four flagship Turkish public universities. The study revealed the conflicting nature of the relationships between academic leaders and administrative staff, who represent the agents of the emergent dynamics, and the academics who represent the institutionalized structures.
The study is designed as a multiple-case study method, in which four leading Turkish Universities located in Ankara form the cases of the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 44 academic and administrative staff members. Interview questions were prepared by the researchers by taking expert opinion and pilot study was conducted before the main study. Maximum variation sampling method was used to determine the sample of the study. According to that, four different stakeholders of the internationalization practices in universities were included in the study. First group of participants are the academicians of the university. Second group consists of the coordinators of International Relations Offices. Third group is the middle level managers namely vice deans or vice directors in graduate schools. Lastly, the fourth group of participants are the upper level managers namely vice rectors or assistants to the rector who are responsible for the internationalization practices in universities. There are 44 participants in the study from four different universities. Among them 5 of them are upper level managers; 8 of them were middle-level managers; 9 of them were international office managers and 22 of them were academicians. In terms of gender, half of them are male and half of them are female. According to titles professors were the majority, more than half of the participants have professor title. Other than professors, 5 participants are assistant professors, 8 of them are associate professors, 4 of them have only PhD, one of them is expert and one of them is lecturer. According to their year of experience, average year of working for participants is 19,5 as academicians. According to their work experience in the administration, among 19 administrators, 10 of them have administration experience for 4 years or more. Among 44 participants, 32 of them have studied abroad. 12 of them studied only for their PhD and 8 of them studied for only post-doc research. 13 of them studied in U.S.A. and 10 of them studied in UK. Along with the interviews, a document analysis was also conducted through analyzing different sources such as strategic plans, web sites. Through document analysis, the strategic aims of these universities towards internationalization, their statistics on international incoming students and outgoing Turkish students in different types of programs such as Erasmus, Mevlana, Erasmus traineeship programs.
The results showed that the universities as institutions and the individual academics have experienced some conflicts in relation to internationalization trends. The results were classified in four different categories academic, economic, politic and socio-cultural following the typology developed by Knight (1999). The results revealed that academic conflicts are language conflicts, curriculum mismatch, “publish or perish”, exchange programs lagging behind expectations, low institutional and individual capacity in international research projects and commodification/ marginalization of academic publishing and events. Secondly, economic conflicts were found as insufficient financial support and individual financial problems. Thirdly, political conflicts were revealed as conflicts between different levels of policy-making, resistance for structural change for higher education and political intervention to international cooperation. Lastly, socio-cultural conflicts were found as adaptation and alienation problems. The results confirmed neo-institutional theory’s premises in that the changes resulting from the structured internationalization trends are adopted superficially, as a pragmatic response by higher education institutions with legitimacy considerations. On the other hand, individual academicians may not embrace these trends for various reasons. As a result, adaptation of internationalization trends are mostly in the form of ceremonial compliance but not a fundamental adaptation transforming the practice of academic staff members.
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