Aligning Internationalisation Strategies with Sustainability and Global Trends

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a thought-provoking EFMD Global workshop on ‘Rethinking Internationalisation’ co-facilitated by experts Simon Anthony Mercado (ESCP Business School) and Julie Perrin-Halot. The workshop also featured insights from past participants, industry professionals and case studies from other HEIs. Whilst things are still fresh in my mind, here are some key takeaways and reflections from the workshop.

“It is not about me, but It is down to me” – This is the why for me, the reason I decided to attend the workshop at the first place!

Internationalisation models are maturing with new organisational missions and forms emerging. Traditional approaches to internationalisation are also giving way to new models and engagements focused on responsibility and societal impact.

  • How can we move our internationalisation strategies to align organisational needs with positive impact?
  • How can we respond to the combined forces of demographic shift and technology?

The workshop introduced these critical questions through varied different discussions, and allowed me to re-think internationalisation strategies and practices in light of emerging industry models and new global imperatives.

They say good things come in threes, right? So I shall share my three Key Learning Outcomes:

Auditing Current International Strategies

  • Understanding the Core: It’s essential to grasp the “Why, How, and What” of our strategies. This clarity helps in identifying what drives us and where improvements are needed.
  • Evaluating and Analysing: Using frameworks like Simon Sinek‘s Golden Circle, we can dissect our strategies to understand their effectiveness and align them with institutional goals.
  • Peer Learning: Sharing experiences with peers provides invaluable insights, helping us refine our approaches and learn from each other’s successes and challenges.

This step is crucial because we tend to prioritise completing tasks over the auditing process in our daily operation.

Moreover, the crucial insight is to seize opportunities for international collaboration, without confusing this with taking unnecessary risks.

Internationalisation and Sustainability

  • Integration with Sustainability: Embedding sustainability into our international strategies is crucial. This means not only addressing environmental concerns but also ensuring that our global activities contribute positively to societal well-being. By aligning our strategies with sustainable practices, we can enhance our institution’s reputation and make a meaningful impact.
  • Balancing Mobility with Sustainability: One of the key challenges discussed was finding the right balance between physical and virtual engagements. Physical mobility has traditionally been a cornerstone of internationalisation, but it comes with a significant environmental footprint. Embracing virtual engagements can reduce this impact, making our international efforts more sustainable while still achieving our objectives. However, the key question is: how can we innovate to create an interaction that feels as engaging as being in person?
  • Adding Long-Term Value: Aligning internationalisation with sustainability isn’t just about meeting current demands; it’s about creating long-term value. Sustainable practices can lead to more resilient and adaptable strategies, capable of withstanding future challenges. This alignment can also attract students and partners who value sustainability, further strengthening our institution’s global position.

Shaping Strategies with Accreditation and Rankings

  • Understanding the Impact: Accreditation standards and ranking criteria significantly influence our strategies, pushing us to maintain high standards and strive for excellence.
  • The 7-C Model: It emphasise on leveraging capital (human, structural, relational, and reputational) to enhance innovation and stakeholder engagement, optimising asset distribution across global markets, implementing effective coordination structures, establishing strategic partnerships, fostering a positive organisational culture, engaging diverse communities to support institutional missions, and developing internationally relevant educational content and research. This framework enables institutions to strategically manage resources, cultivate a global mindset, build strong partnerships, nurture a supportive culture, engage stakeholders effectively, and deliver high-quality educational and research outputs that enhance institutional reputation and impact.

Looking Forward

First and foremost, the two-day workshop has given me a valuable thinking environment, which I consider a luxury. Secondly, the workshop equipped me with the tools and insights to critically assess and enhance our internationalisation strategies here at Leeds. By using the 7-C model, integrating sustainability and leveraging accreditation and rankings, we can create strategies that are not only effective but also responsible and impactful.

Do we have all the answers to the current challenges facing IHEs? No, we do not. But, I’m keen to implement these learnings and continue pushing the boundaries of our international efforts. Let’s keep striving for excellence and sustainability in our global engagements!

Re-thinking Internationalisation EFMD workshop banner

Finally, I wanted to say that attending this workshop has not only provided valuable networking opportunities with fellow attendees but has also been a tremendous peer learning experience. I extend my gratitude to EFMD Global for organising such an excellent workshop tailored for professionals in the international higher education sector.

This post was first published on LinkedIn and is available here.

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