Challenges to Internationalisation

End of last month Simon Sweeney, Higher Education Academy (HEA) Associate, visited us at Reading in his capacity as advisor for the Internationalisation Change Programme initiative. The visit started with a 2-hour meeting with members of the ICP team followed by a lunch time presentation by Simon to university staff. Following Simon’s presentation, several Internationalisation practitioners remained for a further 1.5-hour discussion to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of our ICP here at Reading.

The lunch time event was well received, with 35 participants attending Simon Sweeney’s talk on the Bologna Process and Internationalisation challenges, particularly in supporting Internationalisation initiatives at home and abroad. Many participants at the workshop remarked that it was the first time they had seen so many practitioners of Internationalisation in the same room!

Although Simon talked mostly about the Bologna process, the main highlights of his talk were the challenges faced by HEIs to deliver a sustainable Internationalisation agenda.

Home challenges most relevant to Reading can be summed up as:

  • Internationalising the curriculum
  • Foreign language study opportunities
  • Mix of international students
  • Engage international students in teaching and learning processes
  • International academic staff
  • Intercultural campus events
  • Student placements with ethnic groups/intercultural organisations

Abroad challenges most relevant to Reading can be summed up as:

  • Home students studying abroad
  • Staff mobility, research and teaching
  • Courses/modules abroad, delivered jointly with foreign HEIs
  • Joint awards/accreditation/credit mobility
  • Research and scholarship partnerships with foreign HEIs/partners
  • Capacity building/technical assistance projects
  • International volunteering and charity work
  • Work placements abroad

While it can be argued that we do most of these at Reading, there is still much work to be done. As an example, with respect to “Internationalising the curriculum” is not simply ensuring that international students understand what is being taught. Although this is certainly a crucially important element, the real challenges lie deeper. Internationalisation does not only involve international students. In this example then, “internationalisation of the curriculum” further includes significant and sustained effort to prepare our students (maybe even more particularly local/home students) to become Global Graduates – fully aware and willing to embrace global challenges in teaching, learning and employability.

Importantly, one underlining practicality of delivery of any Internationalisation agenda is the adaptation of an online culture, delivered with the right technologies at the right time. In this era of digital technology, to be an internationally competitive HEI we must keep up to date with educational technologies and this is particularly important if our remit is to deliver on the University’s Internationalisation agenda.

Digital challenges highlighted by Simon were:

  • Digital literacy initiatives and training (for staff and students)
  • Blended learning / flexible delivery
  • WiFi everywhere!
  • Audio recording/podcasts of lectures (at the very least)

These require meaningful and sustained investment in; IT, appropriate training and full time dedicated support staff at Faculty and even School level, among others.

The main outcome of the day was to:

  • Maintain and increase the need for digital resources
  • Improve our understanding of what Internationalisation means
  • Find sustainable means for delivery of the University’s Internationalisation agenda

One immediate outcome of this event is that CSTD will be organising a one-day event on the topic of Internationalisation in March (further notice to be communicated by CSTD).


Click to download Simon Sweeney’s presentation.


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