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Launch of Internationalising Higher Education Framework Guide

12 May 2020 | Dr Janette Ryan Many would be familiar with the HEA’s ‘Internationalising Higher Education’ framework from 2014. Now, a comprehensive new guide by Dr Janette Ryan gives a rich description of what internationalisation means, why it’s important, and how it can be implemented

The guide builds on our Internationalising Higher Education Framework (2014) and describes what the broad principles in the Framework mean in practice. The overall purpose of the Framework was to ‘prepare 21st century graduates to live in and contribute responsibly to a globally interconnected society’. This, and the new guide, are driven by a vision to promote a high quality, equitable and global learning experience for all students studying UK HE programmes, no matter their background or where they are.

Who is the guide for?

The guide is aimed at institutions, staff and students. It suggests different ways of looking at what we do, and how bringing in diverse value systems, experiences, sources and perspectives can be used to help improve staff and students’ cross-cultural capabilities and the employability of students who will be working in rapidly changing international contexts. For institutions, it discusses big questions such as “global standing”, the importance of bringing in or fostering international skills and knowledge, the value of international alliances and what can be their contribution to improving global societies.

What is internationalisation?

Internationalisation goes to the very heart of the academy and knowledge generation. It is much more than the inclusion of international examples in the curriculum; it requires new and imaginative ways of thinking and collaboration in a global context within and across academic cultures and national boundaries.

The guide runs through incorporating the key principles that should underpin it, such as inclusivity, interconnectivity, flexibility, collaboration and sustainability. It also emphasises the importance of values such as respect, equity, ethics, openness and reciprocity.

Internationalisation cannot just be “done” and left – it is an ongoing and dynamic process which involves people, structures and curriculum across an entire institution.


The guide promotes collegial approaches to education, research, and partnerships that transcend national and international boundaries, but it also outlines the individual roles and responsibilities required to realise the internationalising of HE. Ways of thinking that are emphasised are:

  • learning as being socially and culturally situated
  • HE as an international community
  • the impact of cultural, individual and linguistic diversities in any given context
  • the continual enhancement of the activity, knowledge and values required for internationalising HE
  • the shared responsibility for internationalising HE between organisations, people and curriculum
  • collegial and collaborative ways of working
  • the whole academic lifecycle
  • variations in interpretation and application which are relevant to different contexts.

Seeing Differently

The guide critiques current definitions of internationalisation as being essentially Western- and internally-focused and argues that such perspectives don’t take heed of the purposes of internationalisation and its potential for global learning and international cooperation. Much of the internationalisation literature is written in Western (and often Anglophone) contexts which can lead to a preoccupation with the benefits for Western universities without considering the impacts on non-Western countries and their students. Instead, internationalisation efforts need to consider alternative views and experiences and examine how these might diversify and strengthen more globally-orientated curricula and so help to address the critical issues facing the world currently and into the future.

Questions and resources

A list of references also gives readers the opportunity to discover other useful resources and delve deeper into specific issues raised by scholars in the UK and internationally. A new Advance HE Connect network Curriculum Internationalisation and Internationalisation at Home has also recently been established by Anthony Manning of the University of Kent and Silvia Colaiacomo of UCL which provides a platform for sharing ideas.

The guide finishes with a series of reflective questions at the institutional, curriculum and individual level to encourage different ways of thinking about internationalisation and how it can be implemented at all levels of the university.

The new guide is part of the Student Success framework series, steered by Stuart Norton at Advance HE.

Post your own questions which you think might get people thinking about the ways of putting internationalisation into practice, or its challenges!


Download the guide to the Essential Framework for Enhancing Student Success: Internationalising HE here.

Read our other guides to our Student Success Frameworks: Student Engagement and Flexible Learning.


Janette Ryan is an international education consultant and a Visiting Academic at the University of Oxford’s China Centre. She was Director of the HEA’s Teaching International Students project from 2009 to 2012 and works with universities nationally and internationally. She has published extensively on internationalisation, cross-cultural pedagogy and education in China.


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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