The fourth episode of the Quality Assurance Academy presents the HOW TO webinars with Lena Candries, Director International Relations & Development, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Business and Economics, zeroed in on how to build, assess and maintain a strong portfolio of partnerships in the context of internationalisation linked to accreditation.

Internationalisation for Lena and her institution equals to proactively develop and sustain international networks and strategy towards a common contribution that will be recognised on an international scale. This goes hand in hand with the mission to better prepare students and junior researchers for their future roles in the global workspace, to enhance the school’s position on the international market and to foster students and staff to become global citizens who embrace cultural differences.

Lena further explained that internationalisation can be successful only when strongly anchored internally within an institution. In the particular case of the Faculty of Business and Economics, this endeavour translated into appointing the Associate Dean for Internationalisation, restructuring a Commission of International Relations (CIR) and involving internationalisation components such as student exchanges, summer schools, English programmes and non-degree programmes. This allowed for bringing all of the constituents together instead of leaving them in silos, which was originally the case. The faculty’s internationalisation team currently consists of the chair of the aforementioned commission and five key people each supervising one of the sections defined earlier. Great example of fostering the internationalisation mission externally mentioned by Lena is the International Week on sustainability, the so-called “i-week”. This international conference for bachelor students provides an opportunity to expose students to international perspectives on current issues in management and to reflect on ethical issues in the business world through a multidisciplinary approach.

Lena emphasised the importance of the selection process and balancing out your existing portfolio of partnerships. Defining and developing a set of criteria – mission statement, rankings, accreditation, geographical aspect, membership of networks and consortia, faculty mobility and research cooperation etc. of your future partners will help you considerably narrow down your options. A system of score cards will consequently help you evaluate the shortlisted candidates. In the end, you should always keep in mind that you are looking for partners with whom you can grow together and with whom you can develop a much deeper international cooperation rather than just student exchange.

In Lena’s opinion, it is very important to continue the dialogue with partner institutions despite the current crisis. Even though many activities are being put on hold or cancelled, keeping the momentum going is now crucial as building trust with your old and new partners takes time. Even when various conferences, used to forge partnerships, are now not taking place, you can take advantage of the participants list of virtual events that you will still receive and proceed with the mapping part of the selection process. Virtual contact may be a little harder, but it’s just different and not impossible to develop partnerships. It is difficult to predict in these unprecedented times what the future will bring. We must show a great deal of agility and adapt quickly to the changes in order to fulfil our international mission, while still keeping up the quality.

And when it comes to the international attractiveness of your institution, so that you are able to select your partners rather than just being selected, Lena’s suggestion is simple – develop your own factsheet, map your institution and define what your ambitions are, what opportunities you can offer and put your strengths very clearly forward. This way, you will be able to show what you stand for, what you want to accomplish in the future and what your aspirations are. A little self-confidence goes a long way.

Have you missed the webinar? You can watch the session recording and we invite you to join us on LinkedIn to engage with an apt audience, ask additional questions and share your own best practices.