Hannah Phung is international projects manager in the Leadership Foundation’s international team. She previously worked as manager of international initiatives at the Tate Gallery and programme manager at the Museum of London. She offers here her perspective on three recent Leadership Foundation research papers and reports on international themes.
It strikes me that although UK HEIs have, for some time now, been internationalising in one way or another, there are still no best practice guidelines, no national advisory body nor guidance at government level (other than “do it”). It’s an individual process like learning to walk. And so all three papers provide us with advice, examples and things to consider if applied in our own context.
Losing Our Chains assesses how well UK HEIs have internationalised since the Bone 2008 report for the Brown government and suggests modes of internationalising. Internationalising the Curriculum considers what an internationalised curriculum looks like and thoughts on its delivery. Developing Capacity for Leading International Projects in Higher Education is a review and report on the practicalities and skills HEIs require to do this.
There are three common themes in these papers: international, leadership and ‘finding our way’.
All four authors seem to recommend, whether explicitly or as a sub-text, a need for strong leadership when working internationally and this is something I whole-heartedly agree with. I don’t work in an HEI, but say this as someone who used to work in the international department of a national institution and who has seen what good leadership can do. I read with interest in Developing Capacity for Leading International Projects the skills required:
"Self awareness, personal resilience, pro-activity and drive, cultural intelligence, diplomacy skills, interpersonal skills and relationship building, strategic AND operational skills, negotiating skills, digital skill."
The interviewees stressed the importance of these skills for those immersed in working overseas or dealing with another country’s culture, bureaucracy, infrastructure, technology. But leaders of international projects also need to show this at home as we attempt to get people to understand not just the international work we do but the importance and impact of it – it’s not just diplomacy skills but a certain type of diplomacy skill, as the report illustrates. The people I’ve spoken to who lead international departments find getting staff at home to understand the reason for their work beyond student recruitment can be difficult and this difficulty knocks on to the ability to gain their support. To do this usually needs our leaders to be able to answer, with conviction and certainty, questions like the first one asked in Internationalising the Curriculum. The first thing that Sayers set out to do was find out ‘what is understood by the term international curriculum’ and to do this effectively she advises her readers to think about what they want to achieve by internationalising the curriculum.
Both Developing Capacity for Leading International Projects in Higher Education and Internationalising the Curriculum are peppered with examples and advice from those you would want to learn from.
Losing Our Chains is set out differently. Rather than a snapshot review of how UK higher education has internationalised since the 2008 Bone report, Grant seems to have picked up on certain areas of internationalisation and pushes us to do more to achieve them. To take an example, Grant offers the idea of an Airline Alliance strategy – be part of a global university consortium.
“In general, very few universities have been willing to consider, with the necessary modifications, a fuller kind of alliance of equivalent depth.”
The University of Warwick in England and Monash in Australia have something I would term a ‘true’ alliance. I attended a talk by Professor Andrew Coats, joint academic vice-president and director of strategy, Monash Warwick Alliance. The universities were working closely for four years before the alliance was born, there is a joint £1,000,000,000 strategic fund and there will be a team of staff that are ‘alliance’ rather than be Monash/Warwick staff working on the alliance. The alliance is the ‘daddy’ of internationalisation for HEIs so while it is something to aspire to, it is probably only realistic in the
near future for a handful of universities.
All three publications look into different areas of internationalisation and are a good starting point to find out where UK HEIs are at, where they are going, to give you a host of things to think about and many questions to seek answers for. There is so much more to learn and to say, which just shows that ’international’ is not just a department, it is set to become something as integral to each university as the students on campus or the finance system.
Internationalising the curriculum: design, delivery and depth
Nicola Sayers, Hult International Business School.
Research report series 4-1, January 2013
Losing our chains? Contexts and ethics of university internationalisation
Colin B Grant BA PhD FHEA, University of Bath.
Stimulus paper ST-9, January 2013
Developing capacity for leading international projects in Higher Education
Lynn Howlett, Newcastle University and Martin Cussons, University of Nottingham.
Small Development Projects 2011, Published February 2013
International Projects Manager