The new international: The end of internationalisation as we know it?

Internationalisation EFMD

Internationalisation has been at the heart of business and management education for decades. The ability to collaborate with institutions outside your home country, bring visiting academic staff, send students for exciting exchanges, run summer schools, we have done it all.

Internationalisation as we know it has been, so far, mainly defined and measured by the statistics related to numbers of international students, numbers of international staff and numbers of students on exchange programmes. In addition, we would also measure our success related to the impact of collaborative international research or the amount of research funding allocated to international projects.

On a personal level, internationalisation has meant friends for life, sharing food and family photos and simply enjoying each other’s company. So, is this concept of internationalisation based on people movement gone for good?

The pandemic has accelerated much-needed thinking about the net-zero global agenda and sustainability of how we manage organisations and our economy. The business world has significantly changed the practices around global cooperation and transferred to successful virtual engagement with multiple time zones working in tandem. Business and management schools have also adapted quickly to this style of working and we would all agree it has created new opportunities and challenges.

Many schools have started to rethink and reimagine the paradigm of internationalisation and we are certainly not short of innovative ideas. At the EFMD Masters conference in December 2020, we have given these themes real thought because they are truly keeping us awake at night. Here is the summary of our discussions:

1. The end of student mobility?

Gabi Helfert, Rotterdam School of Management

There was an overwhelming yearning and recognition of the importance to reinstate the physical student mobility. The immersion in a new culture, ability to deal with a cultural shock and develop as a human being is simply irreplaceable. On the other hand, embracing the technology and digitization of our education was favourably discussed and the term Digital Mobility excited the conference participants providing them with a concept to explore.

2. Internationalisation post COVID – a huge opportunity?

Janicke Rasmussen, Norwegian Business School

Our Norwegian colleagues brought an important perspective of our international strategies sitting alongside our digital and sustainable future strategies. The discussion was framed with optimism and call for more collaborative teaching delivery based on sharing resources and capabilities across networks like EFMD. There was a real appetite for true collaborative programmes across the globe with a sense of one community. EFMD partners elective open to EFMD student community was the idea that we all cheered to and we cannot wait to see this innovation evolve.

3. Bring your Mum to business school

Radka Newton, Lancaster University Management School 

This debate was based around the appreciation of the context our students are finding themselves in staying in their home countries and joining us remotely. They all have a story to tell, family business to share. Global corporate stories are inspirational and very useful for learning but interviewing your uncle who has successfully run his business in Ghana and sharing the insights with your classmates, wow, that would bring yet another dimension to our global business awareness.

So, there you have it – three possible concepts proposed and discussed by leading European business schools. Feasible, innovative, daring? We are at the beginning of the process to propose a successful future concept of internationalisation and hopefully, it will become more flexible and fluid, we will embrace a variety of options to educate even more responsible management graduates with sustainability in the forefront. For now, there are still many unknowns that we as a business school community want to address.