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The internationalization of higher education – Instalment 1

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Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. What are the drivers behind the move towards globalization?
  3. Models of internationalization
  4. References

What are the drivers behind the move towards globalization?

Reflecting a globalized world

Globalization has created the need, as never before, for employees who can work all over the world, in diverse business environments and cultures. Goods, capital, services, labour and even knowledge circulate freely in a global economy. Problems, too, are global: take for example the way that the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in the US had repercussions all over the world.

Business educators are conscious of the need to create global citizens. Professor John Wilson, head of Salford Business School, UK, wants to ensure that undergraduates are equipped not only with technical knowledge, but also awareness of different cultures, so that they can work in any part of the world.

And Marietjie Wepener, marketing and communication director at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa, believes that it is no longer possible to teach in isolation,

" ... we are part of a global economy and our students will be part of a global economy".

And because knowledge workers move around the world, knowledge too becomes global, especially as creativity is sharpened and stimulated with the mix of cultures. Universities are in an excellent position to nurture this process.

Needs of the emerging and developing world

Nations whose economies are rapidly developing, and who seek to join the superpower elite, know they must create an educated workforce. If they rely on sending people abroad, they risk losing talented people who stay in their country of study. They therefore need to create their own world-class universities.

India and Korea, for example, are both investing heavily in higher education:

  • India needs to increase its number of skilled workers and therefore the higher education sector's ability to provide them – its goal is 21 per cent enrolment in higher education by 2017, an increase of 9 per cent, which will require a further 1,500 education providers (Brady, 2010).
  • Korea has pledged $600 million to its World Class University Project, a ministry-of-education bid to raise the quality of research in 30 universities (McNeill, 2009).

Kick-starting higher education is often best done by inviting international help in the form of foreign investment:

  • India has gone along this route and is attempting to tidy up its regulatory process to make things easier for its foreign partners. The UK is now India's "partner of choice", and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative was launched in 2006, with funding from both countries' governments, as well as private investors (Baty, 2009a).
  • China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) was established in 1994 in Shanghai as a global business school. Faced with the task of creating a brand, and producing and sustaining excellence, quickly, CEIBS followed a unique strategy: they "produced an egg with a borrowed hen" by importing foreign faculty, and "borrowed a nest" from Shanghai Jiaotong university, where they have their campus.

Needs of the developed world

Higher education in Australia and the West is big business – but, in an increasingly competitive environment where demographic trends mean competing for a declining pool of home students, higher education establishments also need to act like big business and find new markets.

In the UK, reduction in government funding has led many universities to look to recruit students from abroad as an income boost, while in the US, universities have adopted what may be described as an "import/export" approach to the issue. On the one hand, they do their best to attract international students; on the other, many go on what has been described as a "gold rush" (Lewin, 2008) to set up outposts in countries with limited higher education opportunities.

The creation of such partnerships and programmes helps raise the profile of the host country abroad, and also attract top research talent, which can lead to research grants and patents which benefit all parties.

Accreditation is also an important driver – internationalization is one of the criteria for assessment through the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) at the European Foundation for Management Development (see