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AIEA event challenges concept of “internationalisation”

As recruiting international students comes to the forefront of many institutional strategies in the USA, administrators are beginning to shift their focus beyond simply increasing international enrolments to retaining students, assessing what is behind buzzwords like “global learning” and ensuring a dual outcome.

"There's an increasing recognition of the need to internationalise internationalisation"

A common sentiment among the 800 delegates representing 40 countries at the Association for International Education Administrators (AIEA) annual conference held in Washington, DC, was that Western institutions “aren’t doing enough” to create internationalised campuses.

“There’s an increasing recognition of the need to internationalise internationalisation,” said AIEA Chief Executive Darla Deardorff.

“That’s really valuing and listening to those voices outside of the usual players of the UK, US, Australia to what others beyond those particular countries might be saying and what we can learn from each other.”

Campus service providers don’t always feel adequately prepared to provide unique services to international students


Two new studies were presented by David Di Maria, Director of International Programs and Services at Kent State University in Ohio and CK Kwai, Director of International Programs at the University of Maine.

Kwai’s research showed that of over 1,000  foreign undergraduate students surveyed, no single factor of the student experience – living on campus, their English proficiency or their financial sponsorship for example – can predict student retention other than their academic achievement.

The results  support calls for holistic approaches on campus to integrate foreign students among the mostly senior international officer delegation.

Part of the responsibility for improving student experiences lies in the hands of campus service providers, who, as part of Di Maria’s research suggests, don’t always feel adequately prepared to provide unique services to international students.

Beyond the push for a foreign presence on campus, the need to identify and measure the productivity of internationalisation is becoming a priority among institutions.

“Higher education is a little late in coming to the topic of accountability so there’s a lot more work that needs to be done in learning assessments in international higher education,” said Deardorff.

Fanta Aw, President of NAFSA, agreed that the event revealed the need for robust assessment in the field of international education and “global learning”.

“We need to understand that that is a difficult task but important and a critical component of our work given that that there are stakeholders we have to account for, our students primarily,” she said.

Delegates agreed that having established international education strategies will increase coordinated transparency among all players. The UK released its industrial strategy for international education in June of last year and Canada followed six months later.

Helen Zimmerman, president of IEAA, confirmed that Australia is “close” to announcing its own long-term strategy. However there are no signs of similar efforts from the US.

“We need to change our terminology to circulation not exchange”

Patti McGill Peterson of the American Council on Education identified the lack a holistic approach in the US from governmental departments, industry and institutions to internationalise international education. “There are many stakeholders who influence policy in the US – employers, alumni, taxpayers – but they often contradict one another,” she said. “There needs to be more liaison between the national government and institutions.”

True reciprocity in faculty and student exchanges was another apparent concern too as US institutions – as well as their Australian and British counterparts – struggle to send students overseas. “We need to change our terminology to circulation not exchange,” urged McGill Peterson.

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