In this post, I will make a generalisation. WHY? Because the majority of the internationalisation staff I have come across within the UK have the similar set of characteristics.
Now, you would expect that staff members, whether academic or non-academic, who are directly working on the Internationalisation theme, would in some way or the other have had some international experience themselves. Whether in terms of study abroad experience or paid/voluntary work experience outside their country of origin. These expectations are more pronounced for internationalisation staff working directly with student groups, such as, organising workshops to gather international students’ feedback or suggestions.
However, this is entirely not the case. Instead, we have non-academic internationalisation staff, with little perspectives on the hindrances one might face whilst studying or working abroad.
If we do have among these non-academic staff some who have little perspectives, we are faced with the following:
- their experience has been minimal, with either only few weeks of voluntary work abroad or only a semester of study
- they were fully funded, by their parents, university or an NGO to undertake this experience abroad
- their experience was limited to an English-speaking country
The above do count as experiences, but what’s wrong there? ALMOST EVERYTHING
- Couple of weeks or months of study/work abroad does not expose you to a proper and adequate view of the host country. It does NOT make you an expert in internationalisation.
- Being fully funded, and having money at hand in a foreign country again does not expose you to the realities of living abroad. It is like the experience of a tourist with pockets full of cash versus a backpacker ; it is fairly easy to guess who has the optimal and real experience of the host country between these two. Don’t get me wrong, but going as a ‘tourist’ to study/work for a short period of time, again does NOT make you an expert in internationalisation.
- Let’s say X is from the UK, X goes to US for a couple of weeks/months. X will have no language problem and no chit chattering in the mind. Am I understanding what this person is saying? How do I phrase this sentence? Did I say something wrong, why is the person angry/upset?
With UK’s cap on immigration and the uprising discontent about foreign workers, academic institutions and students are unjustly suffering from a lack of internationalisation. Despite the growing interest in internationalising higher education, our universities will fail in fulfilling their promises with respect to this matter.
I am eagerly waiting for the time when academic institutions will realise the missing factor in their internationalisation effort. Till now, this is a sensitive topic due to the government’s cap on immigration.