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Shape different future for int’l student success and inclusion, urges ACE report

US international education needs to reconsider the meaning of international student inclusion and success, and look to build lifelong relationships with oversea student cohorts, a report has suggested.

The compact focuses on building lifelong relationships between students and institutions from the first point of contact to their postgraduate careers. Photo: pexels

Disruptions in technology are disruptions, but also "massive new opportunities to reimagine international education"

The American Council on Education ‘Toward Greater Inclusion and Success: A New Compact for International Students’ report proposes a shakeup of strategies and practical approaches to ensure international students thrive academically and socially while on campus, at the same time preparing for careers and life post graduation.

“The future requires a different kind of conversation about international student inclusion and success”

The “call to action” compact asks higher education institutions, policy makers, researchers and professionals to step forward and “shape a different future for our relationship with international students” in a new global context, said Kara Godwin, one of the report’s authors.

“Coming at a time of changing US immigration policy and the global Covid-19 vaccine rollout, this report can help institutional leaders commit not only to attracting greater numbers of international students, but to a new vision of equity, inclusion, and support,” said ACE president Ted Mitchell.

The document suggests a “lifecycle approach” that focuses on inclusion and success in three phases: before international students arrive at the institution; during their studies; and after graduation.

“We are facing a fundamentally new context, and it’s not just because of the pandemic,” said Chris Glass, associate professor of Educational Foundations & Leadership at Old Dominion University and one of the authors of the report.

Long-term, megatrends that have adjusted the context of international higher education include sustainability and the climate crisis, the increasing role of network technology, the rapid expansion of access and “massification” of higher education around the world, he suggested.

“The future requires a different kind of conversation about international student inclusion and success: a new compact that recognises that the same trends heightening risks in the near term also generate opportunities to produce better outcomes for international students in the long term,” the report notes.

“We believe colleges and universities can meet this moment with a more expansive vision for why they want to invest in international student inclusion and success with outcomes that benefit students, institutions, and society.”

Proactive institutions are going to be leading by linking internationalisation to sustainable development, centring culture on the student experience, utilise network technology, and focus more on affordability than in the past, Glass explained.

Commenting on one of the tenets outlined in the report – sustainability – Glass said it’s “the recognition that we’ve been on an unsustainable path that has assumed that there is limitless growth in cross-border enrolment”.

“There’s ecological limits to our planet. There’s a lot more of a need to focus on how research and education can address the SDGs.

“In terms of being culturally responsive, it’s recognising that too often when we have asked international students to adapt to our context, what we are often really asking them to do is adopt US-centric approaches to thinking and relating, as opposed to transforming our institutions culturally, and centring culture on the student experience.

“Diversity is something that drives innovation, it fosters academic excellence”

“Diversity is something that drives innovation, it fosters academic excellence.”

Disruptions in technology are disruptions, but also “massive new opportunities to reimagine international education and exchange with more sustainable approaches”, he continued.

“Too often we’ve thought about international enrolment as a global race for talent, with a focus on competition and commercialisation that has overshadowed the academic mission of higher education,” he added.

New generations of international students will come from more diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented students, and “affordability is really becoming one of the most significant barriers for US higher education”, he suggested.

“Access institutions like community colleges and public regional universities [will] meet the global demand for higher education.”

Institutions will also need to reconsider how they can create new opportunities for international students via networks.

“[Our] focus on ‘inclusive’ says it’s important about who international students meet,” Glass said.

International students require numerous networks ranging across academic research and faculty, to diaspora, to local city and community networks built through community engagement, as well as alumni and employer networks created through proactive career services.

“The report is based on an understanding that new generations of international students are likely not going to look like the ones in the past,” he said. “[They] are going to be more middle class and employment focused.”

Affordability, safety and education quality are likely to be on the forefront of their minds, he suggested.

“We are going to need to rethink how we think about types of funding, whether they be work study programs, assistantships, scholarships, or other types of financial support.”

The paper stems from an ACE 2016 longitudinal study – Mapping Internationalization on US Campuses – which indicated that the country’s institutions were not “doing as well as they should” supporting international students, despite more resources for recruiting and enrolling students from overseas, Godwin indicated.

“We hope that the key concepts related to valuing and nurturing international students will resonate globally”

The work is underpinned by ACE’s model for comprehensive internationalisation, and its revised edition for December 2020 suggests a shift from ‘global mobility’ to ‘global mindset’.

“We hope that the key concepts related to valuing and nurturing international students will resonate globally,” Godwin added.

The report formed the basis of discussion at the ACE/AIEA Internationalization Collaborative 2021 which took place virtually on February 12.

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