Meeting a New Challenge: Internationalisation in Higher Education

Polamk_Avauksia John Taylor Published Date 19.12.2018 14.11 Blog

Internationalisation is a key strategic theme within the planning processes of universities across the world. What underlies this apparent preoccupation with internationalisation?

At one level, the internationalisation of education represents an inevitable response to the forces of globalisation. However, the motivation for higher education institutions is much more complex. For some, being “international” is sometimes seen to be synonymous with high quality. For others, internationalisation is a source of additional income, especially through the application of fees. However, I still adhere to a more benign view of internationalisation: I want my students to understand the wider world, both out of simple interest, but also out of need. Increasingly students will be working across national boundaries in their future careers. As a researcher, I need to be aware of the latest developments in my field from around the world and I want to be interacting with colleagues wherever they are based. Finally, I also believe in higher education as a powerful influence in supporting social and economic change in developing countries. Although it is easy to be cynical about internationalisation, I certainly welcome the present focus on international activity of all kinds.

Jane Knight has defined internationalisation in higher education as: “the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education”. 1 In other words, internationalisation can apply to all activities undertaken by universities and colleges. Internationalisation can take many forms within an individual institution. These may include the recruitment of international students; the provision of international experience for home students; the recruitment of international staff; the provision of opportunities for staff to gain international experience; membership of international networks and collaborations; and participation in transnational education and research. It is also important to recognise the importance of “internationalisation at home” for all students. This may include the inclusion of international elements within the curriculum; provision of opportunities for the study of languages; and the organisation of social events to promote international cultures.

The scope for internationalisation is vast and it is important to consider the impact on leadership and management in universities and colleges. Internationalisation requires the commitment of resources, especially time, but also funding. International activities cannot be undertaken “on the cheap”. As a consequence, issues of cost-benefit arise. Pursuing a new international contact must be weighed up against other commitments or against other international opportunities. Moreover, internationalisation often raises issues of risk, both financial and reputational; significant ethical questions may also arise. Further questions must also be considered including the availability of necessary infrastructure, staff development and quality assurance. Institutional leaders must balance the desire to encourage innovation and enterprise in international activities with the need for overall strategy and some element of control. Further, the range of possibilities and the importance of enhancing quality require systematic evaluation of all activities associated with internationalisation. Sometimes, hardest decisions are needed on what not to do.

What does this mean for Polamk? I will offer a few thoughts. Polamk has a special mission within Finnish higher education, to meet the education and training needs of the police and related services. Inevitably the College must look inwards to the needs of Finland. This does not mean that internationalisation is of little interest for Polamk; quite the reverse! I would suggest that an understanding of comparative approaches to policing and of international law can only be helpful for both trainees and experienced officers. It is important to create further opportunities for students to travel abroad; it is also important for international students to visit Polamk. Polamk also has an important role to play in taking forward research on policing, working with international partners across the world. Further, the scope for international consultancy and the development of short professional development programmes, delivered both in Finland and abroad, is huge. Such activities can only enhance the core work of Polamk. In common with every other university or college, there is a huge internationalisation agenda facing Polamk!

Professor John Taylor

1. Jane Knight, 2015, Updating the Definition of Internationalization,

Professori John Taylor toimii Lancasterin yliopistossa Isossa-Britanniassa. Hän johti auditointiryhmää, joka arvioi Poliisiammattikorkeakoulun laatujärjestelmää vuosina 2017−2018.