Internationalization of higher education

Internationalization of higher education in theory is "the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education."[1] Internationalization of higher education in practice is "the process of commercializing research and postsecondary education, and international competition for the recruitment of foreign students from wealthy and privileged countries in order to generate revenue, secure national profile, and build international reputation."[2] The main components of internationalization of higher education are recruitment of international students, development of international branch campuses, students, staff and scholars exchange programs, internationalization of the curriculum, and research and education partnerships between institutions regionally and internationally.[2]

There are specific rationales which are driving the internationalisation and strategies which are being used in the internationalisation of the high education institutions (HEIs).

Internationalization rationalesEdit

There are three rationales of internationalization: idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism.[3][4]


An idealist rationale of internationalization in higher education can generate a more democratic, fair and equal world with regard to international cooperation.


The second rationale is consistent with its practical and economic goals. This rationale influences policy-makers on developing the level of transparency and mobilization between national educational systems, enabling and simplifying the mobility of people and integrating university degrees, grading systems etc. According to instrumentalists, higher education is a way of increasing profit, ensuring economic boost and sustainable development and transferring ideologies of governments, transnational corporations, stakeholders or supranational regimes.

Furthermore, higher education is required to meet the demands of the capitalist and global world. In this respect, universities espousing internationalization are more likely to promote their country’s competitiveness in the global academic arena. Instrumentalism can be contrasted with idealism in terms of hidden ideocultural goals.


Educationalists accept internationalization in higher education (HE) as a way of broadening the academic experiences of students and academic staff.[3]

Internationalization preparednessEdit

Preparedness for internationalization of higher education can be understood better at two levels; organizational and systemic. Organizational preparedness includes structural preparedness, functional and administrative preparedness, academic preparedness and cultural preparedness. Systemic preparedness is about political will and support to internationalization, economic and financial support by the state, administrative and regulatory mechanism that is conducive for globalized outlook and importantly, social structures that enable.[5]

Internationalization strategiesEdit

Academic strategiesEdit

Academic strategies focus on academic programmes, research and scholarly collaboration, external relations: domestic and cross-border and extra-curricular activities.[6]

Organizational strategiesEdit

Organisational strategies include governance, operations, services and human resources. Governance mainly focuses on the active participation of faculty and staff, recognition of the international dimension in institutional mission/mandate statements and in planning, management. Additionally, it indicates the importance of operations which highlights appropriate organizational structures, systems for coordination, communication and cooperation, adequate financial support and resource allocation systems.[7]

Internationalization categoriesEdit

The internationalization of higher education can be divided into two processes:

Internationalization at homeEdit

As a response to domestic postsecondary students lacking opportunities with cross cultural experiences, schools have developed on campus internationalization efforts to promote a global student identity.[8] Examples of on-campus cultural learning opportunities include: internationalizing the curriculum, developing inter-cultural research projects, collaborating with local minority groups, and promoting interactions amongst domestic and international students.[8]

Crossborder internationalizationEdit

Crossborder internationalization is "the movement of people, programs, providers, policies, knowledge, ideas, projects and services across national boundaries."[8] Traditionally, crossborder internationalization was demonstrated through student mobility, but now postsecondary institutions are borrowing and implementing foreign programs within their own campus.[8] This demonstrates how internationalization efforts involve the exchange of both people and ideas to new countries.[8]

Impacts of internationalizationEdit

Economic impactsEdit

Considered to be a product of and response to globalization, internationalization has an economic orientation.[9] Within the Anglo-American tradition of higher education, internationalization is increasingly associated with commodification and commercialization of postsecondary education.[10][11][12][13] There is international competition for recruitment amongst postsecondary institutions to recruit foreign students from privileged countries in order to generate revenue, secure national profile, and build international reputation.[10] Anglophone postsecondary institutions benefit from international students enrolling at their school due to the higher tuition fees for foreign students.[14] International students contribute to their host country's economy through their tuition fees and their living costs during their study period.[15]

Social impactsEdit

Postsecondary institutions promote interactions between international and domestic students to develop their cultural fluency skills in preparation for a globalized future.[14] The rise of internationalization has meant students from countries with limited access to domestic higher education opportunities are able to access and obtain their education in a foreign country.[15] Postsecondary institutions that offer internationalization experiences, whether crossborder or within their own campus, are viewed as more prestigious and competitive than schools who have limited international mobility initiatives.[15]

The emergence of concepts as internationalization of educational policies, students-staff exchange programs, internationalization of curriculum, internationalization at home (IAH) or even the emergence of multinational agencies to expedite global exchanges in the realm of Higher Education lead educational policy-makers to confess that segregation of the educational policies from nations’ foreign affairs policies have no promising results than failure of the nations’ educational goals and priorities. [16]

Academic impactsEdit

The rise of international students at postsecondary institutions has led to faculty adapting their teaching style and content delivery to better fit diverse student needs, especially language gaps, within the classroom.[17] These academic modifications include providing diversity focused materials, promoting cross cultural collaboration in class, avoiding colloquial language, and presenting images/visual material to support lecture content.[17]

At postgraduate level, the internationalization of higher education has been shown to contribute to the internationalization of research as researchers who travelled as part of their study tend to maintain networks and connections they established as students.[18]

Challenges of internationalizationEdit

The internationalization of higher education can pose several challenges:

  • The gradual extension of market-based rationales that have historically been absent from traditional university policies to educational initiatives and academic rationales.[19]
  • Western postsecondary institutions have been tasked with developing culturally relevant support services for the rising diverse international student population.[14]
  • Cross cultural research projects and research collaborations can be difficult when language barriers are present between the countries working together.[20]
  • At the institutional level, internationalization efforts can be hindered when senior staff do not reach a consensus about the definition of internationalization and the steps needed to undertake the process.[20]
  • International students pay inflated tuition fees when compared to domestic students in some countries, such as the UK, which can act as a barrier for international study opportunities.[21]
  • The popularity of internationalizing higher education has led to the creation of private and non-accredited education companies offering unregulated courses and programs.[15]


  1. ^ Knight, Jane (2003). Updating the definition of internationalization. International Higher Education. pp. 2–3.
  2. ^ a b Khorsandi Taskoh, Ali (2014). A Critical Policy Analysis of Internationalization in Postsecondary Education : An Ontario Case Study. Ontario: Western University.
  3. ^ a b Stier, J (2004). "Taking a critical stance toward internationalization ideologies in higher education: Idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism". Globalisation, Societies and Education. 2: 1–28. doi:10.1080/1476772042000177069. S2CID 216590240.
  4. ^ Knight, J (2004). "Internationalization Remodeled: Definition, Approaches, and Rationales". Journal of Studies in International Education. 8: 5–31. doi:10.1177/1028315303260832. S2CID 145731215.
  5. ^ Inamdar, N.(2019). Transcending Boundaries in Higher Education: Are We Really Ready?. In Bhat, H.V., & Inamdar, N. (Ed.), Internationalization of Higher Education: The Dynamics of Educational Ecology (pp. 9-32). Manipal: Manipal Universal Press.
  6. ^ Murshudova, R (2011). "Internationalization of Higher Education in Azerbaijan: Transforming Post-Soviet Legacies through Higher Education Development". Capstone Collection Paper 2430.
  7. ^ Knight, J (2008). Higher Education in Turmoil. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  8. ^ a b c d e Knight, Jane (2012). "Student Mobility and Internationalization: Trends and Tribulations". Research in Comparative and International Education. 7 (1): 20–33. doi:10.2304/rcie.2012.7.1.20. ISSN 1745-4999. S2CID 143986229.
  9. ^ Beck, Kumari (2012). Globalization/s: reproduction and resistance in the internationalization of higher education. Vol. 35. Canadian Journal of Education. pp. 133–148.
  10. ^ a b Khorsandi Taskoh, Ali (2014). A Critical Policy Analysis of Internationalization in Postsecondary Education : An Ontario Case Study. Ontario: Western University.
  11. ^ Knight, Jane (2004). Internationalization remodeled: Definitions, approaches and rationales. Journal of Studies in International Education. pp. 5–31.
  12. ^ deWit, Hans (2011). Trends, issues and challenges in internationalization of higher education. Amsterdam, Centre for Applied Research on Economics and Management.
  13. ^ Altbach, Philip (2002). Perspectives on international higher education. Change. pp. 29–31.
  14. ^ a b c Robson, Sue (2011). "Internationalization: a transformative agenda for higher education?". Teachers and Teaching. 17 (6): 619–630. doi:10.1080/13540602.2011.625116. ISSN 1354-0602. S2CID 143947137.
  15. ^ a b c d Altbach, Philip G.; Knight, Jane (2007). "The Internationalization of Higher Education: Motivations and Realities". Journal of Studies in International Education. 11 (3–4): 290–305. doi:10.1177/1028315307303542. ISSN 1028-3153. S2CID 146416698.
  16. ^ Khorsandi Taskoh, Ali (2020). "Internationalization in Canadian Higher Education Institutions: Ontario". Higher Education for the Future. pp. 97-117,
  17. ^ a b Sawir, Erlenawati (2011). "Dealing with diversity in internationalised higher education institutions". Intercultural Education. 22 (5): 381–394. doi:10.1080/14675986.2011.643136. ISSN 1467-5986. S2CID 55492153.
  18. ^ ALEJANDRO, AUDREY (2020). WESTERN DOMINANCE IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS? : the internationalisation of ir in brazil and india. [Place of publication not identified]: ROUTLEDGE. pp. 79–89. ISBN 978-0-367-54010-4. OCLC 1145913401.
  19. ^ Khorsandi Taskoh, Ali (2020). "Internationalization in Canadian Higher Education Institutions: Ontario". Compare: Higher Education for the Future. 7 (2): 97–117. doi:10.1177/2347631120930538. ISSN 2347-6311. S2CID 220910567.
  20. ^ a b Bedenlier, Svenja; Zawacki-Richter, Olaf (2015). "Internationalization of higher education and the impacts on academic faculty members". Research in Comparative and International Education. 10 (2): 185–201. doi:10.1177/1745499915571707. ISSN 1745-4999. S2CID 145405665.
  21. ^ Maringe, Felix; Woodfield, Steve (2013). "Contemporary issues on the internationalisation of higher education: critical and comparative perspectives". Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. 43 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1080/03057925.2013.746545. ISSN 0305-7925. S2CID 143866095.