International Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

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Posted on by Vicky Lewis

Lessons from beyond the UK bubble

Paul Skorupskas - UnsplashAt a time of policy turmoil and uncertainty, it can be easy to forget the world beyond our UK higher education bubble.

Or else we focus only on what’s going on in ‘countries like us’.

Of course, it’s extremely valuable to learn from the experiences of other anglophone countries. And there have been some great webinars and podcasts recently, which have provided useful commentaries on recent developments in Australia and Canada.

These include:

However, I’ve also been reminded by articles in publications such as University World News, Times Higher Education, ICEF Monitor and the EAIE’s Forum magazine, as well as by conversations with (and LinkedIn posts by) colleagues in other parts of the world, that it’s helpful to lift up our heads and take note of developments in other higher education systems, beyond the usual suspects.

Higher education challenges around the world

A good starting point is NV Varghese’s recent article in University World News on the main challenges facing HE systems around the world.

Varghese highlights wide-ranging issues including:

  • increases in student diversity within massified systems;
  • system shrinkage due to demographic decline (Japan, South Korea);
  • politically driven, inward-facing policies (China, India, UK);
  • a questioning of the value of higher education (US, UK).

Focusing in on the policy dimension, the Dutch right-wing coalition is proposing ‘shocking’ measures likely to restrict both innovation and internationalisation of the HE sector, as outlined in this UWN piece. The implications of shifts in government policy in the Netherlands (which were in train even before the latest, radical proposals) are discussed from the perspectives of international and Dutch students in this insightful Forum article.

Over in Finland, there are government proposals to introduce full-cost tuition fees for non-European Union students attending degree programmes ‘where instruction is given in a language other than Finnish or Swedish’. One rationale given for this is to boost university finances. The government is also keen to introduce new ethical standards for international recruitment. Both measures form part of a drive to attract more international students and to encourage them to join the Finnish labour market after their studies. Views from the sector are mixed on whether raising fees will have the desired effect.

The employment rights of international students are a hot topic in various locations. ICEF Monitor highlights improvements to in-study work rights for international students in Germany while, over in Malaysia, there’s an expansion, outlined in this Times Higher Education article, of post-study work rights for international students from selected countries. 

Opening our eyes to fresh perspectives

The above examples represent just a tiny (and geographically skewed) fraction of developments in other countries, based on what’s dropped into my field of vision over recent days.

I’m fascinated by the constantly shifting kaleidoscope of approaches towards international education around the world – and the fact that responses to similar policy levers can differ depending on national context.

Taking time to consider what’s going on beyond our own borders can help us to challenge our assumptions about ‘what works’. Sometimes it can even remind us to count our blessings!

There’s always a valuable new perspective to be gained by zooming out.

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