The authors expressed their expectation that different backgrounds and communities of educators and administrators around Europe would dictate that views, objectives, and practices aimed at boosting an institution’s international footprint would differ widely country-to-country.
“Irrespective of the goals they give for internationalising, they do it in a similar way”
Although there were certainly differences in approaches, such as a higher percentage of southern European professionals reporting that mobility for home students was an institutional goal, than eastern Europeans, the actual practices were described as “relatively similar”.
Report co-author Anna-Malin Sandström told The PIE News that these somewhat different goals, the process of boosting a global reach was not particularly different between institutions or nations.
“Irrespective of the goals and the reasons they give for internationalising, they actually do it in a relatively similar way. It doesn’t really seem to impact how institutions tend to internationalise,” she said.
The view of regional differences impacting internationalisation did find some merit, but the differing views were mainly concerning local or regional regulations.
European Union regulations and initiatives were widely supported, as one might expect, with 96% of respondents reporting a positive effect of Erasmus+. Similarly, 72% of leaders reported a positive impact from Horizon 2020.
Local politics were, again perhaps unsurprisingly, the target of much more negative feeling.
High levels of respondents in both Denmark and the UK reported a negative impact of local policies on their efforts. But positive feeling was also reported by several nations, including Norway and, intriguingly, Kazakhstan, where 83% of respondents said local policies had helped internationalisation achievements.
The report also points out that so-called “emerging markets” are more likely to be satisfied with local government support. However, there is more work to be done, the authors note, as “the picture is not clear-cut”.
The second co-author, Ross Hudson, said the diversity of policy and opinions of that policy makes the European Higher Education Area an “amazing” group.
“The fact that the EHEA is such a diverse collection of countries [means] it’s an amazing collegiate set of organisations and people working together but they are obviously from completely different backgrounds,” he told The PIE.
“Nationalist governments can’t just change policy the next day”
Several external challenges are identified within the report, with lack of external funding and strong international competition ranked highly.
But hovering lower on a graph published within the report, is “political nationalism / xenophobia,” with 10% of respondents noting it as one of the three most important barriers to further internationalisation. This rose to 14% when only eastern European answered were considered, but dropped to 3% in southern Europe.
Hudson, however, argued this might be due to a lack of understanding of how longer-term policies affect international education.
“There’s a feeling that there’s this cloud of nationalism within the government structures but the actual ramifications of that are not well understood by those working on internationalisation,” he explained.
Sandström, too, added that this could be a question of perception, as xenophobic legislation or regulation may be classified as nationalist regulation (‘national legal barriers’ in the survey), rather than arguably the difficult to define label of general national xenophobia.
“You less clearly see the direct impact of [xenophobia] in the way that you see a direct impact of immigration regulation, [even if] those regulations are an impact of xenophobia,” she said.
The question of delayed reaction to governmental changes was also discussed by the authors, and although the example of far-right government was given, Hudson’s point can be extrapolated to changes of government or long-term policy adjustments.
“When nationalist governments come in, they can’t just change policy the next day. It might be a case when we run this again in three years time and there’s been a change in government in Germany, or Le Pen comes in in France. The lag between the new government coming in [means] the change in policy won’t be instantaneously,” he pointed out.