A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation

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Front page of the publication.
Front page of the publication

Full title
A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation.

Abstract
The guide analyses the different elements that contribute to internationalisation in higher education. This analysis intends to guide the (self-)assessment of the quality of internationalisation. It presents how the elements that make up the Frameworks for the Assessment of Internationalisation are to be interpreted. Since all these elements can be used to substantiate realisations in the field of internationalisation. Since internationalisation is contextual, this guide does not prescribe or endorse any particular internationalisation approaches or activities.


Author: Axel Aerden.


Cite:
Aerden, A. (2013). A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation. ECA Occasional Paper. The Hague. Download



Introduction

Internationalisation is a complex phenomenon and is strongly influenced by the context in which it takes places. As a multidimensional concept, the realisation of internationalisation widely varies in different higher education settings. This means the context and the varied ways in which it is operationalised need to be taken into account when assessing internationalisation.

But what then is internationalisation of higher education? Definitions of internationalisation have changed and might continue to do so in the future. While the colonial-era projection of higher education to zones of influence was once considered a form of internationalisation, most would now hesitate to do so. And while international student mobility steadily developed as an important instrument for internationalisation, it has also become clear that internationalisation is much broader than cross-border activities.

The most commonly referred to definition of what is meant by internationalisation was coined by Jane Knight in 2004: “The process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education”[1]. It incorporates a system-level perspective and includes a focus on teaching and learning. Betty Leask has further characterised internationalisation by focusing on the curriculum: “The incorporation of an international and intercultural dimension into the preparation, delivery and outcomes of a program of study”[2]. When assessing the quality of internationalisation we therefore focus on teaching (the preparation and delivery) and learning (the outcomes).

Around the world, in particular in the USA and Europe, several instruments have been developed over the past ten years to assess the quality of internationalisation[3]. These focus mainly on indicators and use more or less the same categories. The vast majority of these initiatives take place on the institutional level and none of them are standard-setting[4]. Together with internationalisation experts, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) designed an instrument to quality assure internationalisation at programme level using predefined assessment standards. In higher education, quality assurance should be regarded as a process of establishing stakeholder confidence that a higher education programme and/or institution is fit for purpose and measures up to predefined requirements. The accordingly developed methodology was tested in 21 procedures and positively assessed by the higher education community.[5] Since 2010, NVAO started offering the assessment of internationalisation to the programmes and institutions in The Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium). There, it is mainly regarded as an add-on to regular external quality assurance in that the quality of the programme or institution and the quality of internationalisation are assessed in one procedure. As a result of sizeable interest from other countries, a consortium of quality assurance agencies and internationalisation bodies was established to develop a methodology that – once finalised – can be used by all these quality assurance agencies to assess and reward quality in internationalisation.

The goal of this guide is mainly to complement the Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation. It does not prescribe or endorse any particular internationalisation approaches or activities. By showing how the elements that make up the assessments standards are to be interpreted and by presenting elements that can be used to substantiate realisations, this guide intends to guide the (self-)assessment of the quality of internationalisation.


Assessing programmes

Since internationalisation is contextual, its quality should be assessed in the context of the programme’s internationalisation goals. By setting standards, these goals are expected to be meaningful. They should have an effect on the learning outcomes intended by the programme, on the student group composition and on the students’ internationalisation experience. The intended international and intercultural learning outcomes provide the context for the assessment of graduate achievement, teaching and learning, staff and services.

Read the full publication for all the aspects to be assessed


Assessing institutions

Since internationalisation is contextual, its quality should be assessed in the context of the institution’s internationalisation goals. By setting standards, these goals are expected to be meaningful. They should have an effect on the institution’s plans for action in several dimensions. The implementation of internationalisation, here regarded as the realisation of action plans must, of course, be demonstrated. Internationalisation should, additionally, be directly included in the institutional quality assurance system. Finally, the institution’s governance must prove to be enabling the coherent implementation of all elements related to institutional internationalisation.

Read the full publication for all the aspects to be assessed


Conclusion

Although this publication mainly endeavours to present how the quality of internationalisation can be assessed, the overall intention has been to demonstrate that internationalisation can take many different forms and entails much more than singular activities. This also means that there is no comprehensive guidebook to internationalise higher education. This guide therefore also needs to be regarded as contextual.

From assessing the quality of internationalisation, we have learned how creative institutions and programme are in developing internationalisation approaches. The wide scope of these approaches and the self-evident way in which internationalisation takes root in all sectors of the higher education community, tells us that the end of internationalisation (or “the conclusion of internationalisation”) is not near. In this sense, this chapter should have been labelled “Inconclusion”.


Source

References

  1. Knight, J. (2004). Internationalization remodeled: Definition, approaches, and rationales. Journal of Studies in International Education, 8(1), 5-31.
  2. Leask, B. (2009). Using formal and informal curricula to improve interactions between home and international students. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(2), 205-221.
  3. Aerden, A., Frederiks, M., van den Heuvel, E. (2013). The Evaluation of the Quality of Internationalisation: European and National Approaches. Internationalisation of Higher Education - An EAIE Handbook, A 2.2-4.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Aerden, A., De Decker, F., Divis, J., Frederiks, M., & de Wit, H. (2013). Assessing the internationalisation of degree programmes: experiences from a Dutch-Flemish pilot certifying internationalisation. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 43(1), 56-78.


See also