This News and Views page is my Blog.
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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 7 Aug 2020 at 11:06 by Vicky Lewis
It was exactly twenty years ago, in summer 2000, that I was appointed to set up a university International Office from scratch.
I went from being Deputy Director of a (for that time) reasonably sized International Office in Scotland to inaugural Head of an as yet non-existent International Office on the south coast of England.
It was a wonderful opportunity. When I arrived, one member of staff in External Relations was responsible for ‘everything international’ – from student recruitment to Erasmus exchange coordination to international student pastoral support and advice. She valiantly tried to corral the efforts of a handful of academic staff who would travel the world attending recruitment exhibitions and blithely signing MoUs or agent contracts. There was minimal coordination or communication beyond their own School.
International Office staff of that era from other institutions (you know who you are) may recall the frustration of finding that two separate (and often visually quite different) exhibition booths had been set up by different Schools / Faculties at the same recruitment event; or that separate visits to a potential partner institution had taken place in quick succession.
Before I arrived, a consultant’s report had identified the opportunities and cost savings that would be derived from having greater coordination and a clear strategic focus. I was therefore in the fortunate position of being given carte blanche to define the scope of the new International Office and to devise new policies and approaches as needed.
I was backed up by top management all the way as we developed from a one-person operation to a comprehensive International Office with specialist staff covering international student recruitment, admissions, student experience, exchanges, outbound mobility, partnerships, pathway programmes, logistics and administration. Because I sat on the University Management Team, we were able to engage with other areas of university operations too – from marketing to the curriculum.
Posted on 24 Jun 2020 at 10:34 by Vicky Lewis
The Summer 2020 edition of the EAIE’s Forum magazine focuses on Employability for the 21st Century. Among a wealth of fascinating articles is one by Louise Nicol (Asia Careers Group) and me: What Happens After Graduation? (pdf download)
Our piece starts by observing that, ‘whether graduates seek work in the host country or the sending country, it’s in the best interest of both national governments and individual institutions to facilitate international students’ transition into the workforce and accurately track employment trends’.
Australian and UK governments have both stressed the importance of graduate outcomes. At the same time, research shows that career impact is a key factor for international students when choosing their future university.
Posted on 16 Jun 2020 at 15:24 by Vicky Lewis
In my recent conversation with Elspeth Jones (Jones, E. & Lewis, V. (2020) In conversation - Evolution of UK International Education Strategy, June 2020), we discussed the evolution of UK HEI international strategies.
I outlined the progression from economically motivated strategies with an almost exclusive focus on recruiting international students (in the late 1990s, early 2000s) to broader internationalisation strategies (in the late 2000s, early 2010s). The latter were more comprehensive in scope but still relatively inward-looking, focusing on making different functions, policies and processes within the institution ‘more international’. More recently, we have started to see global engagement strategies, which are more outward-facing, with an emphasis on building long-term international relationships and engaging responsibly with communities on a global scale to serve the common good.
There is an opportunity for the next generation of strategies to reflect a subtle shift from an attitude of ‘how can the wider world contribute to our institution’s success?’ towards ‘how can our institution contribute to the success of the wider world?’.
Posted on 1 Jun 2020 at 13:24 by Vicky Lewis
June will be a month that includes some interesting-sounding live webinars to replace the British Council’s cancelled Going Global 2020 conference.
In addition to the ‘after the storm’ type sessions triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, there are some familiar (but nonetheless valuable) themes. Topics include: improving employment outcomes in a changing world; diversity, equity and inclusion in HE; the future of transnational education; and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
This morning, I happened be leafing through my DBA thesis, completed way back in the mists of time (2007), long before Brexit, long before coronavirus. The thesis is on ‘integrated internationalism’ in UK higher education and looks at the drivers for and approaches to internationalisation within the UK HE sector at that time (mid-2000s).
Within the thesis, I stumbled across my summary of the 2006 Going Global conference (this was only the second time the conference had run).
Posted on 20 May 2020 at 14:46 by Vicky Lewis
Drawing on the thinking of 17th century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, it challenges the belief that ‘we must always go to new places in order to feel and discover new and worthwhile things’ and urges us to make the most of what is close at hand.
Towards the end of the 18th century another Frenchman, Xavier de Maistre, ‘decided to study the wonders and beauty of what lay closest to him, entitling the account… A Journey Round my Room’.
What really struck me about this was the insight that ‘the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to. If only we could apply a travelling mindset to our own rooms and immediate neighbourhoods, we might find these places becoming no less interesting than foreign lands.’
He suggests that the chief characteristics of a travelling mindset are receptivity, appreciation and gratitude. And that ‘crucially, this mindset doesn’t need to wait for a faraway journey to be deployed’.
It seems to me that, at a time when we cannot jet round the world and when we have an opportunity to shake off our environmentally damaging addiction to long-haul travel, this is a very pertinent message. And a useful lens through which universities might consider their aspirations for Internationalisation at Home.
Posted on 6 May 2020 at 11:40 by Vicky Lewis
When it comes to international higher education, we are very fond of putting things in boxes and framing them in terms of dichotomies.
This desire to categorise can be unhelpful, highlighting differences at a time when the boundaries between many of these categories are becoming increasingly blurred.
Posted on 21 Apr 2020 at 14:26 by Vicky Lewis
Within the higher education sector (and beyond), we’re starting to read some pieces advising us where to focus our efforts when the coronavirus dust settles, but it’s difficult to get the timing right. Some people may be tuned into forward planning, while others are still in fire-fighting mode.
Simon Anholt, founder of The Good Country Index (which measures what each country contributes to the greater good of humanity), has used Twitter to initiate a new hashtag: #staychanged. The idea is to highlight those positive (often kinder, greener) behaviours that the pandemic has triggered, which we would like to hold on to after it is over.
This blog reflects on institutional behaviours (within UK HE) that we’re seeing now, which are essential during the current crisis and will continue to be valuable if they can be maintained afterwards.
In each case, I look at how the changed behaviour plays out in the context of international student recruitment.
I’ve selected five changes for the better. (There are doubtless many more.)
Posted on 10 Feb 2020 at 16:05 by Vicky Lewis
Sometimes conferences generate a lot of media (and social media) buzz. That was the case with the 28 January UUK International event on International Graduate Employability: Making Good on the Promise. Perhaps this was because it was the first of its kind to connect together some important agendas, which need to be thought about holistically rather than in isolation.
Of course, one of the first developments that comes to mind when one thinks about international graduate employability is the long-awaited new post-study work route, which will allow international graduates of UK HEIs to seek and undertake employment in the UK for two years after they graduate. While this is extremely welcome, it opens up some questions about whether UK universities are equipped to meet the expectations of their international students – not only the small minority who choose to remain in the UK, but also the 90 per cent who, on graduation, return home to pursue their careers.
This article highlights three themes that came through loud and clear at the conference, before suggesting some practical ways in which HEIs can adapt to support the employability of their international graduates.
For alliterative purposes, the three themes can be summarised as:
Posted on 11 Jul 2019 at 17:21 by Vicky Lewis
The UK’s global reputation has been damaged in the eyes of many of our friends around the world. They look at our behaviour (particularly since the 2016 referendum) and are, by turns, baffled, unsettled and pitying. Both our collective judgment and our competence as a nation have been called into question. There is a need to reinvent our relationships with the rest of the world – and universities have a significant role to play.
Posted on 12 Jun 2019 at 15:17 by Vicky Lewis
In my last blog post, Through the Looking Glass, I presented a different perspective on university internationalisation. One where university leaders treat internationalisation not as an inward-facing process that will make their institution more famous, wealthier or – in some way – ‘better’, but as an outward-looking lens through which the institution can explore and strengthen its role within the global ecosystem.
Although many UK HEIs still take a fairly parochial, silo-ed approach to international strategy development, there are indications that some university leaders are starting to expand their vision.
As always, the national strategy lags well behind the thinking of those institutions that are in the vanguard.
One problem at national level (which echoes the challenges at institutional level) is that different departments have different agendas. Efforts are at best fragmented, at worst pulling in different directions.