What is the Next Big Thing in International Education?

Higher education institutions, educational organizations, and governments around the world are continuously looking for new ways to engage internationally and to keep their academic institutions relevant and competitive. Funding organizations and governments are investing substantial resources in international education, and are seeking to identify new areas to support.

And everyone is trying figure out what it’s all for. [See Rajika Bhandari’s excellent article in the most recent edition of IIENetworker, which asks “International education for what and for whose benefit?”]

Over the years, a variety of concepts have been tossed around. Some stuck, others faded. Here are just two examples or how the debate has progressed over the years:

  • Years ago, we (the international education community) focused mostly on the mobility of students. Then we ‘discovered’ the concept of “internationalization at home.” The term was first used by Bengt Nilsson from Malmö University in 1999 and was subject of a position paper published by the European Association for International Education.  Then, we talked about “comprehensive internationalization.” Now, some are asking whether international education is in a “mid-life crisis” (as suggested by Jane Knight at a session at the 2011 NAFSA conference) or if we are even seeing “the end of internationalization [PDF] ” (as suggested by Hans de Wit and Uwe Brandenburg in a 2011 essay published in International Higher Education). Just this week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary piece by Jason Lane and Kevin Kinser exploring whether the international education bubble is about to pop.
  • In recent years, the international higher education community has focused much attention on branch campuses. What are sustainable funding models? What is the purpose? Why do institutions do this anyhow? Now, we are exploring newer – or maybe just more manageable concepts – such as the liaison offices or gateway offices. [See my blog post on “Of FROs and WOFEs: Models for Expanding U.S. Universities’ Global Presence.”] And we are beginning to hear much more about “Education Hubs” – not just the usual suspects in the Persian Gulf, but also countries such as Botswana, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.  This was a major topic at the British Council’s recent Going Global Conference in Dubai and will be key theme at the International Education Summit in the year of the UK’s G8 Presidency to be convened by the British Council next month in London. [Last year’s summit was arranged by IIE and held in the United States.]

One interesting recent example of how IIE is working with partners to find innovative new ways to manage scholarship programs is our partnership with Hilton HHonors on their Teacher Treks program. The program will fund 15 teachers to travel and experience first-hand the subject they teach, enriching their curriculum and inspiring students to explore the world. The interesting angle is in the selection process. It’s not your distinguished selection panel model, but a crowd-sourcing model. Anyone could vote, “American Idol” style, for their favorite teacher. Voting closes April 30.

We see many trends emerging, but will they stick? What is the next big thing in international education?

  • Will MOOCs or open badges revolutionalize international education? [See Rahul Choudaha’s blog post on “Could the birth of MOOCs lead to death of international branch campuses?”]
  • Will the concept of the Global Network University (as articulated by NYU) define what an internationally-engaged higher education institution of the future looks like?
  • What will be the impact of social media? And what is the future of virtual exchanges and how will it impact study abroad? How is social media and the crowdsourcing model affect fundraising and selection processes?
  • What role will higher education play in international development? And will higher education be part of the next Millennium Development Goals?
  • What about student mobility patterns? Will China replace the U.S. and the UK as leading host country for international students? What will happen to immigration policies?
  • As more and more countries begin to develop international education strategies, what will be the new dynamics? Will the U.S. remain the gold-standard of higher education and the country of choice for many foreign students and scholars?
  • What new forms of international academic partnerships will emerge? Will the bi-lateral exchange and partnership model disappear in favor of multilateral cooperation?
  • What will governments and funding organizations likely seek to fund? Will research funding become predominantly focused on international projects, managed by multilateral teams of institutions?

What do you think? Share your thoughts here on this blog, or consider contributing an article to the next edition of our IIENetworker magazine, which will focus on this very theme. Read the call for papers. Articles are due on June 15 and should be submitted to Madeline Friedman, IIE’s publications manager, at mfriedman@iie.org.