As the UK 2021/2022 academic year comes to an end, UK Business Schools are reflecting on how to manage a period of growth and success around the international sphere. However, our members report challenges around scale, quality and continuing to provide a transformational life changing experience. Our new ‘Developing International Futures in Business Schools’ collaborative project will help members address these.
Internationalisation has been a success story for UK higher education
International and transnational education continues to be a global success story for UK higher education. A diverse range of international students contribute to the sector and partnership opportunities continue to flourish and grow for both education and research purposes.
Indeed, the scale of international student growth has exceeded expectations and according to HESA statistics, the UK reached a 2030 target of hosting 600,000 10 years early in 2021. Core to this growth has been the continued attractiveness of UK Business Schools based on reputation, range of courses offered and the perceived value of the UK graduate route visa.
Challenges are emerging from this success
This long-term growth creates both challenges and opportunities for UK Business School in terms of continuing to innovate but ensuring that students are supported and that the experience they receive is a truly transformational not transactional one. Moreover, as business schools continue to build their networks of partners for transnational education, research, and innovation there are questions of quality assurance, oversight, and values.
The challenges therefore are multi-faceted, especially as Business Schools are at different stages of their journey within the broad international sphere of activity. As a member-led organisation our ongoing dialogue with members and senior business school leaders suggests there are some big questions.
Dealing with scale
One of the ramifications of success has been to deal with the rapid scale of growth and desire for students to come to the UK. For smaller schools this has meant that they are struggling with policies and infrastructure designed to support much smaller cohorts of students that they currently host. From a pedagogical perspective this has meant that assessments and teaching methods have needed quite radical change.
Even larger schools who are more used to significant international cohorts are reporting that this has created issues in dealing with demand for extra-curricular opportunities and employment and intern opportunities. Many are concerned that they will be unable to meet student expectations if growth continues at its current pace with associated reputational and operational risks.
Health, welfare, and community
Tied to this question of scale, all members report that the health, welfare of students is important to them and creating a sense of community for students as integrated members of the University community is vital and that there are difficult questions about the best approaches to take on delivering this.
Indeed, the most common theme from members was that as numbers continue to increase then fresh approaches to the whole student journey and onwards to alumni status need to be concerned. Many reported concerns that current induction approaches do not match the accelerated block delivery approaches that many Universities now use.
Seeing the student as an individual
What seems core to all members is a desire to continue to develop more nuanced understandings of their international cohorts and use this to develop curriculum, support structures and communities that see each student as an individual rather than as part of a simplistic homogeneous “international cohort”.
Tension between regulatory drivers and innovation
The post-covid period also provides more operational complexity with students exposed to more innovation to technologies and delivery methods but a tension with regulatory barriers such as visa requirements. Members note that matches the desires of students for more flexible learning while maintain operational efficiencies is something that see as continuing to grow in importance.
Effectiveness and efficiency in the Transnational Education
Finally, from a partnership and Transnational Education (TNE) perspective, members are looking for both efficiencies but also more effective ways to manage quality assurance, student and staff exchanges and allied research and innovation activities.
Developing International Futures in Business Schools Project
The newly announced Developing International Futures in Business Schools collaborative project is designed to bring together key stakeholders and leaders from UK businesses to answer some of these challenges mentioned above and more.
At its core is the concept that member collaboration and exchange is the most powerful mechanism for rapid change and impact. The project uses a structured approach to look at the issues that are facing UK Business School and help schools work towards systematic change in areas that concern them.
Charles Knight is a Senior Advisor (Learning and Teaching) at Advance HE. Previously he was an Associate Dean (Student Experience) at Salford Business School and has worked extensively across the sector with universities on strategy and international education.
Developing International Futures in Business Schools
UK higher education as both a destination for international students and strategic partner for collaboration within transnational education (TNE) continues to be an area of success. This collaborative project aims to help UK HEIs to continue their international growth and work on their international strategy, providing a supportive but critical environment for the development of new practices, processes and areas of impact underpinned by clear strategic intent and a desire for excellence. Find out more about the project here.