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Finances are not main motivator for internationalisation across European HEIs – EAIE

Financial resources are vital for higher education institutions to operate, but many HE professionals working in internationalisation indicate that it is not a “deep concern” or the “main motivation” for work, a report focusing on nine European countries has found.

A "less commercial 'feel'" at campuses across Europe may be a strength on the global stage, the report said. Photo: DAAD

In the UK 21% of institutions labelled insufficient external funding a difficulty

Using data from the 2018 EAIE Barometer, the ‘Money Matters’ report – launched at this year’s conference – explored how financial considerations might be perceived as a driver or barrier for internationalisation at universities in Finland, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and the UK.

“This may be a strength for Europe on the global stage”

Nuance and variability extend across European institutions’ thinking about whether and how money matters, one of the authors and EAIE associate director, Knowledge Development & Research, Laura Rumbley said.

“On the one hand, yes, of course, money matters. Financial resources are vital… but at the same time we see a large number of European higher education professionals working in internationalisation indicating that it is not a deep concern or main motivation for work.”

The UK is “particularly sensitive” to money matters, the report maintained, noting that the country considers internationalisation through an “overtly financial lens” when compared with institutions across the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, a lack of focus on financial benefits across continental Europe may give internationalisation a “different, less commercial ‘feel’ in comparison to major competitor countries like the US and Australia.”

“This may be a strength for Europe on the global stage,” the authors noted.

However, institutions across the continent vary when it comes to key activities associated with generating revenue, Rumbley continued.

“Northern European and Eastern European HEIs were more likely than the European average to prioritise international student recruitment,” she explained, adding that the “top activity” was determined to be the international mobility of home students.

HEIs in northern (63%) and eastern (62%) Europe indicated international student recruitment was a “vital activity”, Rumbley noted.

After the UK (85%), institutions in Poland (72%) and Italy (68%) said international recruitment was a priority. This dropped to 36% in Germany, and 39% in Kazakhstan.

Another activity that the report identified as a means of generating income was providing programs in a non-local language, with an average of 33% of European institutions noting it as a priority.

Almost three in five (59%) of institutions in Poland, 55% in Italy, and 45% in Finland said that was a prime activity.

The paper also studied money as a barrier to internationalisation, however, it found that financial matters do not necessarily dominate the discussion about the hurdles institutions must contend with in their internationalisation efforts.

Spanish and Polish institutions were the top countries that said that insufficient external funding was a concern, with 48% and 41% respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum was the UK, where 21% of institutions labelled insufficient external funding a difficulty.

Rumbley noted insufficient external funding was a “consideration but it’s not running away with the show”, with competition and legal barriers also being noted difficulties.

“Financial considerations aren’t necessarily runaway concerns in terms of internal challenges”

A higher ratio of Finnish (60%), Dutch (30%) and Germany (30%) institutions indicated that perceived high living costs were a worry – well above the European average of 24%.

An insufficient internal budget was listed as the top internal challenge – with 39% of institutions across the continent suggesting it was a difficulty. Slovakian (59%), British (44%) and Spanish (43%) providers all indicated above the European average.

“Financial or potential financial considerations aren’t necessarily runaway concerns in terms of internal challenges,” Rumbley explained.

Regionally, the lack of internal budget was more of an issue in Eastern Europe where 46% of respondents cited it as a first or second concern.

 

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