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International higher education

20 Mar 2023 | Dr Charles Knight Dr Charles Knight, Associate Director for Knowledge and Innovation at Advance HE, introduces ‘International Higher Education’ a new member project for 2022-23 which will support members in developing forward-looking international education strategies, building partnerships and how to consider sustainability from a range of perspectives.

The last decade saw an explosion in the flows of knowledge, resources and people around the broad topic of what we can call international education. In countries such as England, even a global pandemic did not dampen the demand for universities, academics and students to engage in partnerships or international study opportunities. Indeed, overall, the UK exceeded a 2030 target for incoming international students by 2022.  

We tell students that when they study abroad or engage in international programs, they are exposed to new ideas, perspectives and ways of life. This exposure will broaden their horizons and help them develop a more nuanced understanding of the world. We tell them that the international agenda and Transnational Education (TNE) prepares them to thrive in a globalised economy. Based on this promise, many students uproot themselves from their home communities and travel to different cultures and contexts. 

For academics and senior leaders, we ask you to travel virtually with us to expose you to new ideas and new cultures via the theme of ‘What next for international education?’  

We ponder this theme via three interrelated questions:  

What is next in terms of international education? 

The choices we make today and the strategic directions we follow will have significant impacts on our institutions, our communities and ultimately, our students.

We currently see global concern about the rapid growth of AI products and their ability to transform a range of higher education practices. Moreover, there are concerns about increasing divergence between regulatory regimes and what this means for real international partnerships across economic blocs.

From the perspective of students, we see the rise of Gen Z and then Gen Alpha who represent a new cultural force with differing expectations and needs that we may not be equipped to meet.   

We ask a panel of leadership experts to consider what they think are the trends and changes we will see over the next decade and how leaders can be prepared for an (always) uncertain future.  

What is next for the Global South?  

As a global organisation, Advance HE wishes to showcase perspectives and voices that should have a bigger influence on this debate. So we want the perspective of the Global South to be centred across all this work but also have specific focus in one of our discussions.  

We want to move beyond discussion about international education dominated by voices from the Global North, which can lead to a limited and skewed understanding of the issues at hand. 

Experts from the Global South bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table, which can help to challenge assumptions and broaden our understanding of the issues. Furthermore, how can we truly be committed to equity and inclusion if we persist in paradigms that represent as a one-way flow of knowledge and resources from the Global North to the Global South. Here we wish to facilitate (but not lead or direct) that conversation.  

What is next for sustainable international education? 

Finally, and mindful of the ethical, economic and environment questions posted by international education and TNE, we ask how higher education providers can be sustainable in their actions and intentions.  

As part of this we consider what makes a true sustainable partnership built on mutual respect, trust and a shared commitment to achieving common goals rather than transactional relationships drives by economics. 

Further, we ponder how universities can both have public support for initiatives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while having TNE growth targets that seem in contrast in this.

In addition, we consider how international educational practices and TNE can be both ethical and provide real partnership, voice and power for under-represented and marginalised groups in society.  


Between now and July 2023, we invite you to be involved in this Advance HE member project which focuses around the concepts outlined above and via the following interactive webinar sessions: 

Webinar 1: International Higher Education - What next? A leadership perspective

We have an expert panel of leadership in TNE and International Higher Education to discuss some of the issues and trends that they see will emerge. They will be discussing a range of issues including:

Has Covid-19 lead to any long-term changes?

What are the changes that we are seeing in student demands and needs?

How are new technologies such as AI and working practices such as hybrid impacting the international student experience?

Date - 27 April 2023 12:00 - 13:00 BST

Book your place

Webinar 2: International Higher Education - What next? A Global South perspective

Conversations about international Higher Education and transnational education privilege those of the western domain and expertise. This webinar will bring together a range of experts from institutes in the Global South to discuss their perspectives on trends, changes and where innovation will happen.

Date - 10 May 2023 07:00 - 08:00 BST

Book your place

Webinar 3: International Higher Education – What Next? Building lasting sustainable partners

This practice-oriented session brings together a range of leaders to talk openly and frankly about the opportunities and the challenges that building international partnerships bring. The interactive panel will include examples of: 

Assessing and identifying possible partners

Getting the cultural fit right

Managing operational issues as they arise.  

Date - 24 May 2023 12:00 - 13:00 BST

Book your place

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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