International Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

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Posted on by Vicky Lewis

A (nearly) end-of-year blog

Kingston Lacy Christmas light trailOn 6 January, I wrote a blog hoping that 2022 would be a varied year with a range of consultancy projects, interspersed with writing and speaking opportunities. The last twelve months have certainly lived up to those expectations.

It occurred to me that, unless I’ve worked with you directly, it may not be clear what kind of consultancy I get involved in, since my blogs tend to be more about issues I’ve been researching or topics that have piqued my interest.

So, the first part of this blog gives a brief overview of some of the consultancy work I’ve particularly enjoyed over the last year.

Consultancy highlights

I’ve worked with senior leaders and others at a number of institutions to steer development of internationalisation or global engagement strategies. Some over an extended time period, with lots of underpinning research and stakeholder engagement; others over a much shorter timeframe with the need for rapid consultation and decision-making. It has been great to get involved (both remotely and in person) in Leadership Team away-days, Executive Board discussions, consultation workshops, focus groups and countless one-to-one interviews and meetings.

One of the aspects of my work that I find most rewarding is learning about the aspirations, values and strengths of different universities, and getting to grips with their organisational culture and capabilities. This ensures that the resulting strategy directly supports ambitious institutional goals and – at the same time – reflects an understanding of the operating context so that it is realistic and deliverable.

Alongside these large-scale projects, I’ve enjoyed critiquing an emerging global engagement strategy; reviewing an institution’s approach to exchanges and mobility; providing input to an Australian university’s Latin America strategy; advising on strategically aligned international partnership development; contributing to ethical principles for international engagement; supporting the search for a new International Director, and more.

Topics of interest

Looking back at webinars, conference sessions, articles and blogs that I’ve been involved with in 2022, the main themes have been around diversification, decolonisation, ethical internationalisation, and the impact of UK national developments on HE international engagement.

It was great to start the year by facilitating a webinar on Expanding and Diversifying International Markets (in Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America) with Cecilia Pereira-Yates, Stuart Rennie, Simon Terrington and Jamie Ash, all experts in their respective regions.  As the year has worn on, the diversification imperative has only grown.

Following a Halpin blog and a Boston College International Higher Education journal article (co-authored with Dr Omolabake Fakunle and Dr Chisomo Kalinga, University of Edinburgh) exploring the relationship between internationalisation and decolonisation, it was a joy to be invited to engage in a ‘fireside chat’ on this topic with Omolabake as part of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore’s Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation’s PhD webinar series. Every conversation with Labake is full of valuable learning for me.

Another highlight was a session I was invited to deliver (alongside Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, King’s College London) on ethical international strategies at UUKi’s PVC International Forum in the summer. It was wonderful to meet up in person with senior internationalisation leaders from across the sector and debate this thought-provoking topic in the beautiful surroundings of Wilton Park (in a heatwave).   

My most recent guest blog was for the EAIE in mid-October. This explored the UK’s changing position in the world and the impact of this on higher education. It was a challenging blog to write as it became clearer with each draft that the then Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was not likely to last much longer. In fact, she resigned two days after it was published and I was relieved I’d chosen to describe her in it as ‘new Prime Minister (at the time of writing)’!

Friends and colleagues

I’m often asked if being a solo self-employed consultant is lonely. That’s not my experience at all. I find there are plenty of opportunities for interaction – with clients and institutional contacts, collaborators, journalists, international HE experts, representatives of sector bodies and more.

It was really enjoyable and stimulating to attend The PIE Live: Europe event (with its miraculous last-minute London venue change) in March: a chance to meet so many people I’d not seen since before the pandemic (and some I’d only ever met online). (Less wonderful was coming away with Covid…)

Other highlights are my regular catch-ups with fellow consultants. There are many more of us working in international HE consultancy than there were when I first started in 2013. But we each tend to have our particular niches and we’re a mutually supportive bunch. I enjoy getting to know those who are taking the plunge and entering the world of consultancy, as well as chatting with ‘old hands’ about the joys and the challenges.

So, as 2022 draws to a close, I’d like to wish all my contacts, colleagues and friends warm good wishes for the festive season and the best possible start to a rewarding year in 2023.   


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