International Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

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Posted on by Vicky Lewis

2024 - 2034 ?


This is the fourth and final blog in my ‘journey through time’ series. I used the previous three to reflect on my 30 years in the international HE sector, one decade at a time.

Part 1 covered 1994 – 2004

Part 2 covered 2004 – 2014

Part 3 covered 2014 – 2024

In this final blog, I thought it would be interesting to look into the future. What might the next ten years have in store for me, career-wise, and for the international higher education sector more broadly?

My professional journey

With the benefit of hindsight (and, of course, this was in no way part of any grand plan), I can see my HE career to date falling relatively neatly into decade-long chunks.

The first decade was characterised by movement:

  • three different institutions
  • lots of international travel
  • numerous job changes.

The second decade was mainly about learning:

  • learning to be a leader and to deal with challenging situations
  • completing my DBA (and learning to juggle this with a full-time position)
  • learning to apply my knowledge and my research skills.

The third decade has been characterised by variety:

  • varied consultancy assignments and research projects
  • client institutions with a variety of values, missions and operating cultures
  • building new connections and support networks – often in unexpected places.

Who knows what the theme of the next decade will be?

I like to review my ambitions each year (generally in December or January) and, while I don’t attempt to look ten years ahead, I do try to set a direction of travel.

This year I kept coming back to ideas associated with reaching out, connecting, collaborating, broadening thinking, learning from others, and contributing to our sector in new ways.

One part of that journey will be greater involvement with the European Association for International Education, as a member of one of its new Thematic Committees, whose remit is to share knowledge and enrich the professional lives of fellow EAIE members in the areas of Leadership, Strategy and Policy.

My two-year term will start on 17 September 2024 and I can’t wait to get to work with the six incredible women – from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Ukraine - who were also appointed to this committee. Sharing ideas and learning more about the diverse higher education contexts across Europe is bound to be fascinating.

Sector developments

As highlighted in my previous blog, there is a good deal of uncertainty about how developments in international higher education will pan out in many countries, including the UK. We’ve been reminded on numerous occasions how rapidly and significantly any changes in government policy can impact on international mobility and collaboration.

Although further restrictions to the post-study work visa now seem less likely in the UK than they did a few months ago, and although the change of government has brought with it more positive mood music in relation to the higher education sector, we would be incredibly foolish to sit back and carry on as we were.

We know that – as a sector and in our individual institutions – we need to evolve our approach to working with government. We must actively demonstrate how universities can play a central role in helping to tackle the many pressing challenges that lie ahead – both at home and on the global stage.

As Ruth Arnold points out so compellingly in her brilliant HESA blog, we need to play our part in supporting the new Labour government in its core societal mission to challenge injustice and redress imbalance.

I’m not going to get out my crystal ball and attempt to predict the future, apart from saying with confidence that the next decade will bring ups and downs and major changes.

I’d like to hope that it will be a decade during which:

  • the value of international education (interpreted in its broadest sense) will be recognised by more people, including those making policy decisions;
  • new models and mindsets will be developed to make an international education accessible to those for whom it is currently out of reach; and
  • partnerships between institutions in the Global North and the Global South will be set up on an equitable basis and acknowledge that those working in wealthier systems have a lot to learn from their partners around the world.

Fun (forward-looking) fact

Five out of eight countries expected to account for over half of global population growth to 2050 are in Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt).

(Sources: United Nations, World Population Prospects (2022); and Our World in Data, cited in IMF (2023), African Century)

And finally

While I haven’t attempted to map out the next ten years, I have just made a calendar note to dig this blog out again in July 2034 and reflect on what actually happened over the decade 2024 – 2034!

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