22 SES 04 B, Paper Session
Internationalisation is a dominant set of policies and discourses in university systems across Europe. It is connected to the opportunities and threats of globalization (real and perceived), technological innovations, and the ever-increasing expectation of academic mobility and international collaborations (Dobbins & Kwiek, 2017; Knight, 2003). Countries in different parts of Europe pursue internationalization policies as a result of different historical and political contexts (Luijten-Lub et al., 2005), whereas the diverse university sector engages with internationalisation activities for different reasons, depending on the nature of the institution (Egron-Polak & Hudson, 2014). These can range from increasing their international reputation, improving the recruitment of staff and students, achieving strategic transformation, or, serving national policy goals (Chan & Dimmock, 2008; de Haan, 2014), in full recognition that different national and institutional contexts frame internationalisation differently (Gornitzka & Langfeldt, 2008; Forstorp & Mellström, 2018). Amongst the Nordic countries, longstanding and successful cooperation amongst university systems is changing with the advent of ‘new internationalisation’ as a result of the Bologna process and the increasing trend for universities to opt for global activities (Maaasen & Uppstrøm, 2004). Within this context, Sweden has actively pursued internationalisation policies at national level (SOU 2018:3), in parallel to the pursuit of internationalisation strategies of individual universities.
In this paper we present research on the internationalisation activities of two of Sweden’s biggest universities. Our main research question is “How do different HE institutions and faculties interpret and operationalize internationalisation?”. We explore in particular two dimensions: (i) The institutional rationales for engaging with internationalisation; and (ii) how these differ depending on the location, academic mission, and history of the two universities.
Theoretically, we draw on multi-level and multi-actor perspectives that describe the complex dynamics of governance and policy coordination in higher education at both national and institutional levels (Chou et al., 2017; Dobbins & Knill, 2017). The Swedish HE sector is characterized by high levels of decentralization and distribution of authority across universities, faculties and departments, that have large degree of freedom to decide on their approach to internationalisation. We analyse ‘environmental’, ‘organisational’ and ‘intra-organisational factors’ (Seeber et al., 2016) that frame the promoted rationales for engaging with internationalisation in the two institutions; and interpret these through an examination of and conceptualization of internationalisation from the perspective of senior leaders and managers in the institutions. In order to understand the institutional practices around internationalisation, we account for both contextual factors of different universities, but also the role that individual actors play in steering the overall mission of universities, setting the parameters for research and teaching at university and faculty levels, and overseeing recruitment and staffing policies.
Our presentation draws on 33 semi-structured interviews with institutional actors in the two universities. The interviewees include: Vice-chancellors and pro-rectors, deans and faculty management, and staff working in student and central support services, as well as internationalisation offices. The interviews covered issues around the (a) institutional articulations and commitments to internationalisation, (b) resources and structures that operationalise it, (c) teaching and research organization, (d) staffing considerations, recruitment and mobility, (e) education and student mobility, and, (f) university partnerships. The data was analysed following a thematic approach to coding and generating categories. The analysis aimed to identify rationales and justifications for engaging with internationalisation in relation to each of the above issues. The analysed data was interpreted further through a contextualization of the data within the two different universities’ strategic documents that identify the goals and missions of each institution, as well as concrete internationalisation strategies.
We find that there are significant similarities between the two universities in terms of how internationalisation is defined and organized, and as a function of the large size, complexity and decentralized structures of the institutions. This also applies to the relative gap in the implementation of internationalisation between the ‘official’ institutional positions and the level of faculty practices. Our analysis also highlights the importance of different faculties and individual institutional actors in prioritizing aspects of internationalisation and driving localized policies and practices that generate significant level of activity. Even though the size and nature of the two institutions is comparable and may account for some of these similarities, different rationales and ambitions relating to missions, priorities and scope of internationalisation activities between the HEIs suggest that internationalisation aims and practices are very much shaped by geography and historically-evolved perceptions of the institutions. This is particularly important in relation to their identified mission, possibility for improving their international standing, and opportunities for different international collaborations.
Chan, W. W., & Dimmock, C. 2008. The internationalisation of universities globalist, internationalist and translocalist models. Journal of Research in International Education, 7:2, 184–204. de Haan, H. H. 2014. Where is the gap between internationalisation strategic planning and its implementation? A study of 16 Dutch universities’ internationalisation plans. Tertiary Education and Management, 20:2, 135-150. Dobbins, M., Kwiek, M. 2017. Europeanisation and globalisation in higher education in central and eastern Europe: 25 years of changes revisited (1990–2015). European Educational Research Journal, 16:5, 519 –528. Egron-Polak, E., & Hudson, R. (2014). Internationalisation of higher education—Growing expectations, fundamental values. Paris: International Association of Universities. Forstorp, P-A. & Mellström, U. 2018. Higher Education, Globalization and Eduscapes. Palgrave Macmillan. Gornitzka, Å. & Langfeldt, L. 2008. The internationalisation of national knowledge policies. Promoting interests, following rules, or learning from abroad? In, Å. Gorntizka & L. Langfeldt (eds) op.cit. Pp.141-169. Knight, J. 2003. Updated Definition of Internationalisation. International Higher Education, 33, 1-2. Luijten-Lub, A., Van der Wende, M., Huisman, J. 2005. On Cooperation and Competition: A Comparative Analysis of National Policies for Internationalisation of Higher Education in Seven Western European Countries. Journal of Studies in International Education, 9:2, Summer 2005 147-163. Maasen, P., Uppstrøm, T.M. 2004. Internationalisation of higher education institutions in Northern Europe in the light of Bologna – Rethinking Nordic cooperation in higher education. RAPPORT 8/2004. NIFU STEP Norsk institutt for studier av forskning og utdanning. Seeber, M., Cattaneo, M., Huisman, J., Paleari, S. 2016. Why do higher education institutions internationalize? An investigation of the multilevel determinants of internationalisation rationales. Higher Education, 72, 685-702. SOU 2018:3. En Strategisk Agenda för Internationalisering. [A Strategic Agenda for Internationalisation.]. Stockholm: Norstedts Juridik.
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