08 November 2013

New learner-centred definition of internationalisation

Well known to many in Australia, Robert Coelen continues to make his mark in Europe and was recently inaugurated as Lector (Professor University of Applied Sciences) in the Internationalisation of Higher Education at Stenden University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.

In his inaugural professorial lecture on 1 November 2013, Robert traces the "history"
of internationalisation of higher education and the various definitions which have been adopted to date. He then puts forward a new definition, one which is focused on the learner:

"Internationalisation of higher education constitutes the provision of an environment containing such elements that a learner is given the opportunity to attain achieved learning outcomes associated with international awareness and intercultural competence."

Designed to give centrality to the transformation of the individual and the achievement of learning outcomes, this definition differs from most others which centre on the organisation or institution (cf. the highly adopted 2003 definition by Jane Knight which focuses on internationalisation as process).

Time will tell whether institutions will readily adopt a learner-centred definition to guide their international strategies. In many ways, this will depend on underlying assumptions (amongst executive staff) about what internationalisation is and how it is connected to international education. However, it may be that a learner (i.e student) focused approach is not best suited to those institutions which place growing importance on the international activities of their staff.

A copy of the full paper is available here.