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Internationalisation of universities
Of course, universities have always had influences that transcended their national frontiers. The student population has always been mobile. The internationalisation has long been visible through global scientific communities, international research collaboration, exchange program, et cetera. In ancient times, students from the Roman Empire were sent to Greece to achieve their education. In Europe in the 16th century, scholars began to travel across the continent to spread knowledge in all the surrounding countries.
But the word “internationalisation” itself is a neologism dating back to the 1980s. The notion appeared in the context of the beginning of neo-liberalism. It expresses the change of the previous conceptions we had of society, education and opportunities. Nowadays, we live in a globalized world. Of course it might be dangerous in some aspects, from an economic, political or even social point of view, but it is also a vector of growth, opportunities and exchanges.
Going global is now a priority. As quoted by the Japanese Ministry of Education, the needs of society and students are diversified, and society’s expectations toward universities and higher education in general are increasing a little bit more every year. The internationalisation of universities is also a necessity due to the global competitive environment that now forces students to have a resume as long as one’s arm, and even then, it is very difficult to find a job.
The goal of an international university is not to make students compete with each other, but rather to create interactions between students from very different backgrounds, by offering a multicultural and international learning environment to them. The main purpose is to prepare students for a world in continuous development. It shows an understanding of the globalization and the need for students to have international profiles and international networks too. But there is also a hidden philosophy behind all that, with a strong social purpose: overcoming differences in culture, language or religion to build long-lasting relations – personal or professional ones- with people from all around the world.
This system is based on several things. First, universities have an international and multicultural orientation. They offer bilingual classes and they promote international exchanges. For instance, the APU (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University) has developed a bilingual system of education in Japanese and English, to allow students to acquire of proficient level in these two languages.In addition, they have to develop a strong international focus and awareness in their staff and in all their activities.Finally, they must strive to build strategic partnerships with other universities all around the world, where they can find and offer strong value for their students and promote their engagement abroad.
For instance, Dr Thomas Gold, Professor, at Berkeley University, Chair at AIU (Akita International University) External Evaluation Committee and Leading Commentator on East Asian Affairs says about the AIU in Japan :
“I have watched AIU grow from a vision to a thriving and dynamic global university in every sense of the word. Its international faculty prepares students not only to use English at a professional level, but also to become truly global citizens through the unique opportunity to study at one of 160partner institutions overseas. AIU is challenging other universities in Japan to globalize as well, thereby helping the nation better meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
To help you better understand what “international university” means, here are the seven criteria that QS Stars rating system uses to measure universities' progress towards internationalisation :
- International faculty
- Institution research collaborations
- International students
- International student support
- Religious facilities
- Inbound exchange students
- Outbound exchange students
- International diversity
Top 10 international universities in 2013 (according to the THE ranking website)
The ranking is based on an overall score combining several criteria : teaching, international outlook (staff and students), industry income (innovation), research and citations (research influence).