This News and Views page is my Blog.
I use it to:
This page shows the ten most recent blog articles. A complete list of all articles since the blog started in May 2014 can be found on the Blog Archive page.
Posted on 21 Jun 2021 at 13:41 by Vicky Lewis
This blog largely reproduces the concluding chapter of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
The current context for university global engagement is fraught with tensions: from the geopolitical level through to the institutional level. The pace of change is frenetic. In the time it took me to write up my report, new agent aggregators and partnership models came onto the scene and the UK government slashed budgets for ODA-funded projects.
The maelstrom of challenges and opportunities for universities, discussed at sector conferences and webinars, in academic papers and in the media, is only very partially addressed within UK national policy and strategy, which inevitably lags behind the wider debates and occasionally feels quite disconnected from them.
This time lag and disconnectedness can also occur in institutional strategies. The big ideas can become diluted and bold courses of action reined back. While the most recent strategies tend to be more values-driven than earlier ones, there often remains a disconnect between rhetoric and reality, between what HEIs say is important and the success measures they use. It is easy to get distracted from the big picture by comparing ourselves with others and fixating on the same metrics we have always used (and those everyone else uses). The hunger for genuine self-improvement can be lost, resulting in a vanilla version of what the institution has the potential to become.
Posted on 14 Jun 2021 at 11:57 by Vicky Lewis
The first part of my research project on UK university global engagement strategies showed that there’s often a mismatch between the global rhetoric in strategy documents (with its emphasis on making a positive contribution to the world) and the measures of international success that are selected (which tend to be more about building institutional profile, reach and income).
I therefore probed this area with my interviewees, generating a variety of responses. This blog seeks to tease out some of their different perspectives and suggests some alternative approaches to measuring success.
It draws on the final chapter (Chapter 12) of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
Posted on 10 Jun 2021 at 15:32 by Vicky Lewis
A strong theme running through my recent interviews was the idea that we cannot simply go back to pre-pandemic ways of working. As one person said, ‘I don’t think the world (or students) will let us “go back”. The old world isn’t there any more; there’s nowhere to go back to!’.
My last two blogs highlighted priorities that need to be addressed in future global engagement strategies. One focused on inclusive approaches to developing global perspectives and another on rethinking partnership models.
Strategies are all about change. And change needs to be enabled. It will only be achieved if the conditions are right. This is why so many UK university strategic plans include one or more ‘enabling objectives’.
This current blog explores some of the institutional conditions, approaches and operating practices that will best facilitate delivery of a post-pandemic global engagement strategy. Of course, every university is different, so some aspects may be more relevant to you than others.
The blog draws on Chapter 11 of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
Posted on 1 Jun 2021 at 14:22 by Vicky Lewis
My last blog discussed the changing nature of partnerships. However, an equally prominent theme to emerge from the interviews for my Global Strategies report was ‘Internationalisation for All’.
Today’s blog explores inclusive approaches to developing global perspectives and enriching the student – and staff – experience, often assisted by digital technologies. It draws on Chapter 10 of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
The pandemic has made it clear that it is possible to have an internationalised experience without necessarily being physically mobile. Interviewees saw opportunities to build on the progress that has been made in experiential and curriculum-based developments that broaden global horizons.
The principle of inclusivity underpins the concept of ‘Internationalisation for All’. Several interviewees observed that the pandemic experience has opened up a space to have conversations about what internationalisation means for the static majority (not just the mobile minority) and suggested that future global engagement strategies would have less focus on physical mobility. One, referring to programme content, suggested that ‘ironically, the content has become more internationalised precisely because we can’t travel’.
Posted on 27 May 2021 at 15:34 by Vicky Lewis
When undertaking interviews for my Global Strategies research project, I asked what would be prominent (and different) in the next generation of UK global engagement strategies.
Almost all interviewees highlighted the changing nature of partnerships and the need for models to be rethought, based on deep consideration of how international partnerships can help institutions to achieve their – and their partners’ – overarching strategic goals.
Today’s blog provides an overview of the new partnership landscape and the new relationships that may be forged. It draws on Chapter 9 of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
Posted on 24 May 2021 at 16:51 by Vicky Lewis
When discussing themes that the next generation of global engagement strategies should address, my interviewees highlighted the need for institutions to negotiate a new set of global dynamics, including some seismic shifts in the balance of power.
Today’s blog provides an overview of key points that were raised. It draws on Chapter 8 of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
Interviewees recognised that the centre of gravity is moving from West to East. Higher education and research are expanding rapidly in many parts of Asia. A more regional approach to globalisation is emerging, with non-traditional destinations attracting international students from their region and new international education hubs developing.
Posted on 18 May 2021 at 10:16 by Vicky Lewis
One important theme that emerged from my interviews with senior HE sector stakeholders was the need for future global engagement strategies to articulate how the institution will address both global and local challenges. Our discussions focused on areas such as boosting sustainability and addressing inequalities.
Today’s blog provides an overview of some of the key points. It draws on Chapter 7 of my report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
Interviewees highlighted a number of challenges which were present prior to the pandemic and have been heightened as a result of it. On the whole, they viewed them through the lens of sustainability, often referring to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) framework. This was seen as an important hook within global engagement strategies, aligning well with research and practice and offering a good way to encourage diverse, discipline-based engagement.
Those who believed their institutions were fully committed to the SDGs saw significant benefits – in terms of building a positive reputation among partner networks, particularly in emerging economies, and responding to the interests of students and other stakeholders. However, there were concerns that some institutions may just be paying lip service to the Goals.
Posted on 7 May 2021 at 14:40 by Vicky Lewis
Today’s blog outlines why now is the time for a new approach to HEI strategies for global engagement. It then explores underlying drivers and opportunities for differentiation. It draws on Chapters 5 and 6 of my new report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
As we emerge from the pandemic and deliberate over our future strategies for global engagement, it’s clear that these strategies must fulfil multiple purposes. They need to make a positive impact across different aspects of institutional mission; and to define a valued and distinctive position for the university within a changed global higher education landscape. At the same time, they have a role to play in aiding their institution's post-pandemic recovery and building financial sustainability.
So, how can we ensure they are fit for purpose? How can we avoid retreating into strategies that are entirely commercially driven, or embracing lofty ideological aspirations that are undeliverable, or developing Janus-faced strategies that say one thing and measure another?
I have noticed, over the years, that the forward-looking ideas and new opportunities which excite academics and practitioners when discussed in sector conferences, opinion pieces and working papers often get diluted (or dropped altogether) when institutional strategies are developed. Some may be picked up, but this is generally as evolutions or adaptations of existing activities, rather than in their more radical, raw and, perhaps, risky form. While it may be inevitable that written strategies reflect a degree of caution, perhaps now is the time to embrace some of the more far-reaching changes that could take an institution’s global engagement in new and distinctive directions.
Posted on 5 May 2021 at 07:49 by Vicky Lewis
Today’s blog focuses on some of the lessons that can be learned from an analysis of the global dimension within UK HEI strategic plans. It draws on Chapter 4 of my new report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
The feedback I’ve received so far on my report suggests that quite a lot of UK HEIs are reviewing their internationalisation / global engagement strategies at the current time. It feels as if the country is starting to emerge from the worst of the pandemic and there is a little more bandwidth to focus on longer term plans.
Wherever institutions are in their strategic planning cycle, it is clear that they are having to invest in some serious strategic thinking, taking into consideration the radically altered external context and changing patterns of stakeholder demand and expectations.
My analysis of the HEI strategic plans current in late 2020 reveals certain common weak spots which may reduce effectiveness so, in the rest of this blog, I suggest ways in which these ‘traps’ can be avoided.
Posted on 29 Apr 2021 at 16:39 by Vicky Lewis
This blog builds on two pieces that I posted back in November / December 2020 on The UK Strategic Plan Landscape and on International KPIs, which shared emerging findings from my research into the profile of the global dimension across UK universities’ current strategic plans.
This topic developed into Chapter 3 of my new report (UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?) which covers the current articulation of global engagement strategy by UK higher education institutions (HEIs). (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).
As I wrote in my November blog, different UK HEIs place different emphasis on global engagement / internationalisation within their strategic plans. For some it is peripheral, for others fully embedded. But, across the sector as a whole, what it its profile?