Innovations in Internationalisation at Home Conference
The Innovations in Internationalisation at Home conference organised by the University of Kent on 5 April proved to be an interesting and informative day with presentations, workshops, case studies and discussions about the nature of internationalisation within the UK higher education sector.
The UK is the second most popular global destination for higher education students worldwide with nearly half a million foreign students attending a UK university. The goverment aims to increase this to 600,000 by 2030 and also aims to double the percentage of university students participating in mobility programmes as part of their degree by 2020. However, it was good to hear that the sector is looking beyond targets and statistics and focusing on what Julie Allen from UKCISA called the 'human touch' in her opening plenary.
It was reassuring to hear many of the speakers focus on intercultural competence as an essential skill set for students not only during their time at university but also as a key employability skill for their future careers. We heard examples of great work being done at universities across the country, socially as well as academically, both formally and informally. Case studies included how pre-sessional courses have been adapted, language and cultural exchange programmes, community projects and social events. What was interesting is that while the uptake from international students for these projects is nearly always high, participation from UK students is often much lower. How can universities better support their home students who perhaps lack the resources to take part in outbound mobility programmes to benefit from the international environment where they study and develop intercultural skills without going overseas? In fact, student satisfaction scores are often lower at universities with more international students. The consensus seemed to be that 'international' should be for everyone and events and initiatives from induction onwards should be aimed integrating rather than separating international from home students.
It was great to see that so many universities are united in their belief that internationalisation and helping students to make meaningful contribution to our increasingly interconnected world is now a top priority.