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

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?’.

Read full blog post...

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.

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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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China-UK relations

Posted on 26 Apr 2023 at 16:58 by Vicky Lewis

Walking the line

Walking the Line - UK and China

In a quirk of timing, the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, used a major speech (reported on here by the BBC) to call for the UK to have a more constructive but robust relationship with China in the same week that the EAIE featured on its blog an article (by Dr Janet Ilieva and me) on the relationship between the UK and China.

(Our article is one of many interesting articles in the EAIE’s Spring 2023 Forum magazine, whose theme is ‘Risk and Response’.)

Although coming at this from quite different angles, we both propose that taking an isolationist stance towards China would be a huge mistake.

According to the BBC, Cleverly argued that ‘the UK must engage with Beijing to tackle “humanity’s biggest problems”’ and that isolating China ‘would be a betrayal of our national interest and a wilful misunderstanding of the modern world’.

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International strategy resources and publications

Posted on 25 Apr 2023 at 14:52 by Vicky Lewis

Web content refresh


I’ve been aware for some time that my Vicky Lewis Consulting website was in need of a content update and reorganisation.

It had developed somewhat organically over the (nearly) ten years that I’ve been an independent consultant.

I have finally got around to giving it a much-needed content refresh.

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What would an ethical international strategy look like? PART 3

Posted on 17 Apr 2023 at 16:51 by Vicky Lewis

Reframing business models and processes

ReframingBack in September 2022, I started a three-part series of blogs on the topic of ethical international strategies. Part 1 (Insights and quandaries) and Part 2 (Harnessing diverse perspectives and shared agendas) appeared, but I didn’t get around to writing up Part 3 (Reframing business models and processes) until now.

While it’s still broadly based on the presentation I gave at Universities UK International’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Forum in July 2022, I’ve added in a few ideas that have struck me as I’ve been working with UK universities and engaging with discussions on ethical internationalisation over the intervening period.

This much-delayed final blog in the series shares some thoughts on how business models, processes and operations might be reframed in order to support ethical strategies for international engagement. What are the repercussions for institutional operating frameworks of taking an ethical approach?

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International Voices

Posted on 11 Mar 2023 at 17:37 by Vicky Lewis

My podcasting debut

Think EducationI had great fun recently chatting to Professor Judith Lamie and Professor Chris Hill as a guest on the International Voices series of their Think Education podcast. If you haven’t come across it yet, do check it out – it’s a great resource and includes conversations with many more illustrious names than mine!

We had a wide-ranging discussion, including:

  • how university international strategies have changed (and are continuing to do so post-pandemic)
  • the things that haven’t changed so much, such as the way success is measured
  • the challenges experienced by institutions wanting to make a long-term positive global impact while also needing to generate income in the short term
  • the importance of joining up international strategy with other supporting strategies and reconciling tensions with – for example – ambitions for environmental sustainability
  • underlying motivations for undertaking transnational education and models of TNE coming to the fore since Covid
  • the shift in the axis of power from West to East
  • increasing regionalisation when it comes to student mobility
  • broad international partnerships beyond HEI-to-HEI, involving organisations and stakeholders in the wider local ecosystem
  • measures of TNE success including graduate employability (and happiness) and stakeholder perceptions
  • the need for a sophisticated institutional appreciation of risk - from University Board level down
  • the changing structures of International Offices with a move to more in-country staff and hubs (with benefits in terms of lower carbon emissions and on-the-ground insight but challenges in terms of ensuring activities are joined up across the globe).

Finally, Judith put me on the spot with her ‘where to from here?’ question. I wanted to end on a positive note and what popped into my head was the recent piece of research by The Policy Institute at King’s College London for the World Values Survey which revealed that UK attitudes to immigration are among the most positive internationally (and have become steadily more positive over recent years) – which provides a useful counterpoint to the impression given by some parts of UK government.

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