New approaches to internationalisation in higher education

We sat down with Professor Helen Spencer-Oatey, Director, Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, to hear her take on internationalisation in higher education today.

Why is it necessary to internationalise institutions?

Recent statistics show that an increasing number of universities globally are recruiting international students. However, studies show that there is often little fraternisation between domestic students and international students and this is a concern because it limits everyone’s opportunities for personal development. There is thus a case to be made that more care and attention should be put into ensuring that international and domestic students are more fully integrated.

Often the internationalisation of an institution is measured by the proportion of international students that institutions have, and perhaps because of this, many institutions neglect the effort of going that extra step, after recruiting international students, of helping everyone integrate. Yet integration can facilitate a better academic, social and cultural exchange between domestic and international students which can transform the student experience for all.

This is what a global education must mean.

This is important because it can lead to a long term and constant flow and retention of international students by ensuring the best possible student experience both socially and academically is provided by institutions. For domestic students, it can help them develop the ‘global graduate’ skills and qualities that employers are looking for.

"there is often little fraternisation between domestic students and international students and this is a concern"

Is this a global issue or an issue specific to institutions in the UK?

This is a global problem. Foreign students find it hard to integrate with different host groups all over the world, not just in the UK.

What is the best way for institutions to improve their internationalisation?

Institutions need to take stock of the extent to which they are providing a global education for all their students. They then need to plan accordingly and provide the financial and strategic support for those who implement initiatives.

In many cases people at the grass roots level are aware of what the issues are but feel a lack of support from senior management.  

If senior managers could be given a clearer picture of what is needed, this would be a very valuable starting point for improving the internationalisation experience of all students, both domestic and international.

What frameworks currently support the enhancement of internationalisation at institutions?

Many institutions have an international office with various initiatives in place to support internationalisation, but few if any of these initiatives are systematic or consistent. Most places focus on fresher’s week and there is often no way of evaluating the effectiveness of what is arranged.

"Institutions need to take stock of the extent to which they are providing a global education for all their students"

How important is global employability to students?

It depends on the study level. For many undergraduates it’s not on their radar but for postgraduate students, it’s something they take into consideration more. Undergraduates often go to university to study the subject they were best at in school without considering how their choices will impact their future employability.

However, with increasing tuition fees, students are now looking more at their ROI on tuition fees and how their chosen institution, course and study level will equip them for the global employment market.

The Global Education Profiler

These issues prompted Helen Spencer-Oatey and Daniel Dauber to create the Global Education Profiler (GE-P) and to run it at a number of universities in different countries. Some of the findings are reported in a policy paper. The GE-P provides a specific assessment of an institution’s global education offering by measuring the various facets of internationalisation in terms of both importance and actual experience. There are staff and student versions of the tool. The survey is usually carried out from the mid-point to the end of an academic year (to review a large part of the academic year experience) and is benchmarked against other GE-P users. The GE-P data offers rich insights that can be used for planning the enhanced development of students’ global skills as well as for the professional development of teaching and administrative staff.

To find out more about how the GE-P can help your institution contact us on

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