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International Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

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Banff National ParkThis News and Views page is my Blog.

I use it to:

  • comment on topics relevant to those working in international education
  • share tips and advice on internationalisation approaches
  • highlight training, conferences or events that I am involved with
  • link to helpful or interesting news items, reports or other resources

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.


Vicky Lewis Consulting Blog


Focusing energy on what we can change

Posted on 3 May 2024 at 17:17 by Vicky Lewis

Reflections on IHEF 2024

Enabling change

I spent the last couple of days at UUK International’s International Higher Education Forum (IHEF 2024). It was the first in-person IHEF since before the pandemic and I really enjoyed the combination of thought-provoking sessions and personal connections.

On the train back last night, I was reflecting on my immediate impressions and key themes.

Simplifying things drastically, I came away feeling that Day 1 was an opportunity to share our common woes (within the UK and with colleagues in the US, Canada and Australia), while Day 2 was more about pulling ourselves together, taking stock of the facts, coming up with some positive actions we can take, and considering perspectives from outside our ‘Anglosphere bubble’.

Sharing challenges, sometimes with a kind of gallows humour, was cathartic, but I was taken with what Sir Mark Walport said in the closing panel session. It was something along the lines of:

There’s no point expending energy on moaning about the things we can’t change. It’s much more important to focus on all the crucial work we are in a position to tackle.

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My April antics

Posted on 23 Apr 2024 at 16:56 by Vicky Lewis

Taking time out

1926 Motor Coach Tour

I’m coming to the end of a four-week break from consultancy.

I decided earlier this year that I’d try to take April off work to deal with a specific personal project – and I told lots of people about my plan to reduce the chance of me backing out!

The project is sorting the contents of dozens of boxes of letters, travel journals, unpublished (and some published) writings, photos, slides, sketches, significant documents and mementos that I brought back from my mum’s house after she died in 2017.  As an only child of another only child, belonging to a family with hoarding tendencies, this is a mountain of a task.

I had been telling myself for years that I would try to reduce my working week to four days and spend my Fridays on the sorting exercise. This didn't happen. Work always took precedence.

I realised I’d have to treat it like a work project and allocate a decent chunk of time to it. April seemed like a good month to pick. Clients often take time off over Easter and I had a lot of assignments finishing in March.

As the time approached, I also recognised that doing something completely different for a whole month would have some much-needed spin-off benefits.

When I became self-employed eleven years ago, I was determined to keep my evenings and weekends largely work-free: something I had singularly failed to do when employed within universities. For my first decade of consultancy, I pretty much stuck to this. Weekend working was very much the exception.

However, I noticed that my discipline was starting to lapse in late 2023 and early 2024. Work was creeping into weekends. Sometimes I’d skip the 7.45am walk with which I always try to start the day when I’m working from home. I was working longer hours but being less productive.

As well as allowing me to make inroads into the box-sorting, taking April off would help me to reset my work-life balance.

As a freelancer, it really went against the grain to tell prospective clients that I would be unavailable until May, given that I didn’t actually have any work lined up in April. But I made myself do it and I’m very glad I did.

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How my international education career started

Posted on 11 Apr 2024 at 10:13 by Vicky Lewis

A trip down memory lane

Sri Lanka memories

I’ve had cause to reflect this year on what led me to embark on a career in international higher education 30 years ago.

In part, that’s because – much to my surprise – it really has been 30 years, which is enough on its own to make you stop and think! Where did the time go? It’s also because, since the start of the year, I’ve been asked to contribute to two publications which have made me ponder on how it all started.

The first was my ‘5 minutes with’ interview with Sophie Hogan for The PIE News. One of Sophie’s questions was ‘How did you find yourself working in international education?’.

My ‘in a nutshell’ response was:

After a degree in modern languages, two years as a freelance travel writer and another two working for a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany, I found myself looking for a job in rural Wales and ended up as International Officer at what was then University of Wales Lampeter. It was a new role and covered everything from managing Erasmus exchanges and devising marketing communications to organising the international student orientation programme.

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UK TNE in Focus

Posted on 27 Mar 2024 at 14:31 by Vicky Lewis

Repositioning for success

TNE in focusConfession time: it’s been over four months since my last blog. This happens every now and then when ‘work-work’ (consultancy) takes over. I hate it when I lose momentum like this as, the longer I go without writing one, the harder it is to re-start.

So, I’m easing myself back in by repurposing a conference presentation on transnational education (TNE) from earlier this month.

TNE certainly seems to be a hot topic. The majority of my recent consultancy work with universities has been TNE-related: whether helping to identify strategic priorities for institutional TNE development; formulating country-specific growth strategies; or advising on repositioning existing TNE provision.

Meanwhile:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Today’s blog draws on some thoughts about repositioning UK TNE for success, which I shared at the Westminster Higher Education Forum conference on Next steps for UK transnational education on 7th March 2024.

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Reflections on the benefits of language learning

Posted on 13 Nov 2023 at 15:40 by Vicky Lewis

A stepping stone to a global mindset

Language learningBack in August 2023, Durham University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O’Brien, wrote a piece for the Higher Education Policy Institute, which argued that the current need for cultural diplomacy means there has never been a more important time for language study.

This inspired me to put out a call on LinkedIn to any languages graduates and speakers of multiple languages in my network. I asked them the following question:

‘What skills has language learning given you that you apply in your job?’

This blog takes as a starting point the many insightful responses I received.

It then delves into some broader issues relating to learning and using other languages, which I had great fun discussing with Professor Chris Hill and Professor Judith Lamie on their Think Education podcast in October.

This is all quite topical in light of the publication of the latest International Higher Education Commission report, ‘Is the UK developing global mindsets?’.

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How can we 'connect currents' in international education?

Posted on 7 Nov 2023 at 08:00 by Vicky Lewis

Reflections on EAIE conference 2023 recurring themes by Dr Vicky Lewis (Vicky Lewis Consulting) and Sirin Myles (The IC Global Partnership)

What were the key conference themes?

EAIE 2023 Rotterdam - Connecting Currents (v2)You know how you attend an amazing conference, come away buzzing with ideas, then day-to-day commitments take over and push all that learning to the back of your mind? We figured we’d try to maintain momentum following the recent EAIE annual conference in Rotterdam.

So we got together to chat about the themes that really resonated with us. This blog includes some of our reflections in an effort to share our learning with those who were unable to attend the conference – and to reignite enthusiasm among those who were there.

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International strategy creation - Part 3

Posted on 4 Jul 2023 at 15:02 by Vicky Lewis

Case studies - approaches to engagement

Ways to engageIn the first two blogs in this series, I explored why it’s important to engage your community when creating an international strategy and proposed some tips and guidelines on doing this effectively.

Now I’m going to share two case studies, drawn from strategy projects I’ve worked on with universities, to illustrate different approaches to engagement. Each institution’s context and ambitions are different, so there is no ‘one right way’ of doing this, but I hope this blog generates some useful ideas.

It’s worth noting that the international strategy development process can be relatively short and sharp (e.g. 2-3 months from start to finish) or considerably longer (e.g. the best part of a full academic year). (If interrupted by a pandemic, change of leadership or other significant event, it can take longer still.) 

In a number of cases, I’ve been involved in the full development process (both long and short). In other instances, I’ve been invited to help at specific points in the process: for example, initial research and horizon scanning at the start of the process; stimulating discussions part-way through the process; or providing a ‘critical friend’ review of a draft strategy towards the end of the process.

In this blog, I’m going to focus on cases where I’ve been involved from start to finish.

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International strategy creation - Part 2

Posted on 28 Jun 2023 at 09:36 by Vicky Lewis

Tips on engaging and consulting effectively

Reaching outMy previous blog explored why engagement is such an important part of the international strategy development process.

The three main reasons I outlined for engaging with stakeholders correspond broadly with three key (but overlapping) stages in the process of strategy creation:

  • Building and broadening understanding

(discussing why international engagement is important for the university community and getting challenging issues out on the table).

  • Strengthening the strategy

(unlocking input and insights from key stakeholders).

  • Securing commitment to delivery

(getting relevant people to take ownership of specific elements of the strategy).

This blog highlights the role of institutional context, some pitfalls to avoid and some guiding principles I’ve found useful.

Read full blog post...


International strategy creation - Part 1

Posted on 18 May 2023 at 12:25 by Vicky Lewis

The importance of engaging your community

Engaging your communityOver recent years, I’ve worked with a number of UK universities to facilitate and support the development of their strategies for internationalisation or global engagement. Client institutions have varied in profile. I’ve worked with HEIs large and small; long-established and relatively youthful; comprehensive and specialist; research-intensive and teaching-focused; highly internationalised and just starting out on their internationalisation journey.

Organisational priorities, cultures, resources and operating styles have differed greatly. This has an impact on the most effective way to consult with key stakeholders and engage with the wider community in the course of strategy creation.

Dr Nicki Horseman recently wrote an excellent blog for Halpin, entitled Why engaging your community should be the first step in creating a strategy. In this, she highlights the benefits of effective engagement and urges those involved in directing strategy creation to reflect on the process (not just the measures of success) in order to learn lessons for future iterations. She notes that, for each institution, the strategy development process is ‘part of living and demonstrating its culture and values’.   

This struck a chord with me. Today’s blog reflects on why the consultation and initial engagement phase is so important. A future blog in this series will consider the different approaches that can be taken.

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10 years of consultancy

Posted on 4 May 2023 at 14:52 by Vicky Lewis

A huge thank you!

10th AnniversaryWell, it seems like no time at all since I wrote a blog marking the fifth anniversary of becoming an independent consultant. Suddenly, it’s my tenth anniversary. How did that happen?

I feel the need to mark the ten-year point in some way and have been wondering what to say. Should I pass on top tips, lessons learned, or consider what advice I’d give myself if I was starting out today?

In the end, it struck me on an early morning walk that what I really want to say is a huge thank you!

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