University of Tasmania
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Governance and structures for the internationalisation of higher education : translating policy into practice

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posted on 2023-05-28, 12:26 authored by Sarah FischerSarah Fischer
As globalisation continues to expand and allow for the rapid exchange of commence and ideas across political boundaries, internationalisation of higher education is becoming increasingly important. So too, is understanding how universities are effectively adjusting and contributing to this changing landscape. This, however, is complex, given the variety of circumstances that affect how and why a higher education institution internationalises. This research compares the development of internationalisation policy and practices at similar institutions in different national contexts, using case studies of universities in Australia, the United States and Norway with the overarching research question: Why are some universities able to internationalise comprehensively and develop sustainable internationalisation policies and practices while others are not? Three sub-questions were examined: how is internationalisation constructed at each university, how is internationalisation policy developed and implemented at each university, and how is internationalisation reflected in the campus environment? Qualitative research methods with an interpretivist approach were used. Data was collected via documents, semi-structured interviews and observations. A policy document analysis was conducted to determine trends in the rationales used in the development of internationalisation policies, in addition to interviews with key academic and administrative staff members at each university and observations on each campus to examine policy development and implementation. More specifically, in order to answer the first research question, relevant international, national, state and university policy documents were collected and a thematic analysis of the documents was conducted. This was completed using the three general phases described by Creswell (2005) and Guest et al. (2012). Once the themes were synthesised, they were compared with the Maringe, Foskett and Woodfield's (2013) typology of rationales for internationalisation to determine within which paradigm each university sits. The universities in this research are all public institutions, similar in size (10,000-12,000 full time students), ranking (top 5% in world) and geographic location (regional and suburban). Although each of these universities is an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member country and is considered to be a 'knowledge society' with a strong education system, universal access to information and commitments to foster knowledge-sharing, their rationales for internationalisation differ. This, in turn, may have contributed to the variation in the institutional responses to internationalisation. To obtain an in-depth understanding of internationalisation policy development and implementation at each university, semi-structured interviews were conducted with key administrative and academic stakeholders involved in their university's internationalisation process. Topics covered included rationales for internationalisation, internationalisation policy development process, internationalisation implementation and internationalisation evaluation. Using Ostrom's (2011) institutional analysis and development framework as a guide, and the three general phases of thematic analysis described by Guest, MacQueen, and Namey (2012), common themes were identified for each interview topic. Next, Bartell's (2003) framework of university culture was used to understand the process of internationalisation at each university. Finally, the three cases are juxtaposed to illustrate the range of contexts in which internationalisation is occurring and each university's responses to internationalisation. Although the universities in this study are quite similar in terms of size, location and rankings, the results reveal dissimilar patterns for internationalisation at each institution. Policyscapes were distinct and rationales for internationalising varied for each case as did policy development practices and approaches to implementation. There was homogeneity in the policyscapes for the Australian and Norwegian cases, but not in the United States. Overall, the rationales were economic for the Australian case, political for the Norwegian case and a mix of political, economic and educational depending on the level (international, national, state, or institutional) for the American case. The policy development processes ranged from coordinated, inclusive and participatory to piecemeal and exclusive and may be explained by university culture. In turn, this has affected the implementation of internationalisation within the universities. In some cases, for example, a gap can be seen between policy rationales and rationales cited by university staff. In order to establish longer term sustainability in internationalisation practices, this is an area that universities could consider bringing into alignment. This study identified several factors related to policy processes that are barriers or enablers for internationalisation. For example, interview participants often indicated that leadership is key. This is consistent with Knight (1994), who described the importance of effective, enthusiastic, committed leadership. In addition, the theme of communication was emphasised, with university staff emphasising the importance of transparent, clear, consistent communication. A third area is the role of academic staff in internationalisation. Some processes included academics in planning and policy development, while others did not. Romani et al. (2018) found that the of role academic staff can be underestimated in internationalisation efforts. A cross-case analysis identified that additional potential causes for policy-practice disconnects include the extent of internationalisation within a university, university leadership approaches, the communication flow and structures within a university, and the marketisation of universities. Regardless of ideological position, certain policy development processes are more conducive to sustainable internationalisation practices (Turner & Robson, 2008) and thus, meeting internationalisation policy aspirations. As universities move towards sustainability, understanding and identifying the different approaches can be useful from both a research and administrative perspective. There is a dearth of recent studies that examine relationships between structures, processes, and actors of international higher education and methodologically, and few comparative studies. This research aims to fill that gap and inform planning, practices and policy development at higher education institution.


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Copyright 2020 the author Appendix N appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: Fischer, SC, Green, W., 2018. Understanding contextual layers of policy and motivations for internationalization: identifying connections and tensions, Journal of studies in international education 22(3), 242‚Äö-58

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