As a jobseeker keen to progress in your career, you must be aware of current issues in Higher Education and must be prepared to tie your own work in to those agendas. This can help you to achieve promotion, to get a new job, or to win research funding.
One of the key themes at the moment is the internationalisation agenda.
What is it?
This policy is driven by both government and university needs and so is diverse and complex. It involves universities, staff and students broadening their horizons and viewing academia in a global rather than a national context.
Universities try to recruit students from overseas at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This is a significant revenue stream due to higher fees and is also often an untapped market.
Exchange programme also develop the internationalisation agenda, as staff and students spend a few months or a year working in a partner institution while your home university welcomes overseas students. This can lead to more revenue for universities (for example by undergraduate visiting students returning to do postgrad work) and can also encourage research connections between different institutions.
However, exchange programmes also offer students a chance to experience the world as ‘global citizens’, as universities start to address their responsibility to educate students about how they can make their way in the globalised world of the 21st century.
Internationalisation can also be pursued by forging institutional-level affiliations with universities overseas. This is often driven by Heads of Department or at faculty level, although any scholar with a connection with an overseas institution could develop this. Another aim in forging these connections is to raise the profile and visibility of your own institution on the world stage.
The internationalisation agenda is not wholly positive for university staff. It encourages the idea that overseas students are a ‘cash cow’ providing extra income and it also perpetuates the idea that universities should see themselves as businesses that are chasing revenue rather than as schools of learning for its own sake.
Another problem is that the perception of foreign students in British culture is conflicted at the moment. There is an erroneous understanding that many students come to the UK to study under false pretences and then disappear into the system. The government is tightening up the visa regulations which will make it more difficult for students to remain in the UK after their period of study, something which will put many potential students off.
How can internationalisation help me?
By showing awareness of this sort of activity, you will be able to impress interview panels or ask for a promotion at your own university. Become involved in the mentoring of incoming international students or help to manage the exchange process. Most departments have an exchange or year abroad co-ordinator. Ask if you can shadow him or her with a view to undertaking the job in the future.
Think about how your department could attract more international students. Undertake market research to investigate this. Using the internet (e-marketing techniques or online surveys for example) is an especially good way of reaching out to a global audience.
Attend or run international conferences, which bring scholars from across the world together. Discuss with them various opportunities for development, such as exchange programmes or shared research projects.
For more on the impact of the agenda on HE globally, see http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2012041114440954