Internationalization: Internationalizing the experiences of staff and students in contemporary Higher Education


Internationalization is of key strategic importance within Higher Education (HE). Many HE institutions cite metrics about international research collaborations, co-authored publications; international recruitment and mobility data to illustrate this. In this special call, we focus instead on research into the perspectives of the academic community, exploring how internationalization is understood and experienced across a range of HE settings and its impacts on social, academic and intercultural learning. We argue the importance of an emphasis on ’internationalising’ staff and student experiences, especially the non-mobile majority, for social inclusion within a wider focus on the role of HE in contributing to social cohesion.


In this special call we focus on internationalization of HE and its tranformative potential for individuals and communities. The trends influencing university internationalization policies and strategies in the last decade have led to an increasing focus on income generation and prestige associated with the recruitment of international staff and students, international entrepreneurial activities and research collaborations, and the development of international branch campuses and transnational partnerships for programme delivery. A major challenge exists to maintain the positive and ethical benefits of internationalization in this increasingly competitive environment. The papers submitted to this special call will generate a dialogue around the role of universities in relation to future societal challenges. They will address the need for HE internationalization to be redefined in terms of equity, inclusion and impact on individuals and communities. Elaborating on and addressing contemporary demands and challenges concerning internationalizing HE involves much more than staff and student mobility. Ultimately, internationalization of and in HE should enhance learning and knowledge development through novel design and development of future higher education systems. It should open up dialogue between students and faculty in inclusive and integrated ways, revisiting notions of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism, as underlying aspirations of internationalization at home and internationalization of the curriculum initiatives. In addition to the conceptual challenges of redefining internationalization, there is a need for further empirical research that engages with innovative forms of student exchange, not only in terms of mobility or study abroad, but also extending the home grounds dynamic to provide distance experience across national borders (c.f. Knight, 2015). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) e-learning strategies are a key element in this, extending HE teaching and learning possibilities (Salmon, 2004). Trends indicate that universities in the future will increase their efforts concerning e-learning, ICT-based conferencing, and virtual means that give learners more options for meetings ‘outside the classroom’ (Wihlborg, et. al., forthcoming).

Knight (2006), de Wit (2013), de Wit et al., (2015) and others discuss internationalization as a crucial interrelationship process in which the delivery of education integrates local, national and international knowledge exchanges. Rather than relying on the research interest and teaching expertise of committed individuals, a more systematic and policy driven approach is required to drive the more comprehensive practical application of the phenomena to reach many more individuals and communities across institutions. In this call we suggest that the ‘making and doing’ of internationalization on home grounds deserves renewed attention. Innovative pedagogies and curriculum should be developed (Wihlborg et al., 2016). Internationalization in an of higher education should be imagined in terms of equity, inclusion and sustainability on a deeper institutional level related to the challenges of internationalizing the graduate workforce and addressing social cohesion in and beyond Europe over time (Marginson 2017) 

Contact person(s)

Sue Robson Newcastle University, UK. (

Monne Wihlborg Lund University, Sweden (


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