Creating international opportunities and enhancing all students’ sense of belonging to a global community

Most UK business schools identify themselves as ‘international’, contributing to their local and international communities in numerous ways. Recently, conversations on internationalisation have often focused on the number of international students entering the country due to the high international fees paid. However, the value of a good internationalisation strategy to a UK university can be extraordinary, delivering improved outcomes, a broader approach to pedagogic evolution, and improved cross-cultural competency, benefitting all students and staff and the wider international community.

Undoubtedly, international students contribute stability to UK universities at a time when home fees are decreasing in value. However, many UK universities do think beyond mere finances, embracing mature internationalisation strategies that value the creation of global communities. Many UK universities are now creating international opportunities for all students that afford a sense of belonging for home and international students, a global supportive community, enhanced programmes, extracurricular activities, and pedagogies that support internationalisation (IHEC, 2023). Many UK business schools can evidence their wider contributions by being awarded international accreditations such as AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS that require us to track, enhance and evidence such work.

Nonetheless, developing a sense of belonging to a growing global community can be challenging, although investing time and finances to support such an objective engenders success. In 2022, the Faculty of Business and Law at Manchester Metropolitan University expanded our GoGlobal brand to include a week mid-semester in which, instead of teaching, we would focus on enriching all aspects of internationalisation.

GoGlobal: Week 6 combines all the variables required to create a global community, including Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) projects, traditional bite-size mobility, employability, research, social activities and acquiring new knowledge. The week is designed to be inclusive and interdisciplinary, meaning students can engage with students outside their discipline and in a way that suits them. The week was not timetabled; students could select from a menu of activities to create their own personalised international experience, as Table 1 demonstrates. They could also achieve points via our award-winning RISE platform to earn an international badge for inclusion on their CVs and social media. We introduced the project in a soft launch to determine students’ responses and demands.

Nature of events Total number of events Student attendance
On-campus and in-person activities 25 1,983
Off-campus and in-person activities 10 259
Online events involving partner universities and international speakers 7 662
Online asynchronous courses 7 940
Hybrid events 2 334

Table 1 – Types of activities

The activities and events included talks from large international companies, visits to international partner universities (including TNE partners), training events/courses, an inaugural international moot competition, cultural and industry visits within the UK for international students, virtual panels with expert speakers, virtual exchanges with partners, virtual international work experiences, opening up work opportunities with large international events (e.g. a Eurovision competition), and international alumni events that focused on future career paths and cultural celebrations.

 

Student feedback was very positive; 348 students completed the post-event survey, and 90% rated the week as excellent or very good. Comments included:

  • “I enjoyed all the speakers; they had something very interesting to say and it had an educational impact on us. I learnt about things I didn’t know about: cultures, organisations, all the opportunities around me and my career path. It was a wonderful and interesting experience. Looking forward to the next GoGlobal event.”
  • “I enjoyed the interactive sessions with the various speakers, the intercultural and inter-culinary displays, the ambience, the fun, the togetherness. It was all an amazing one week of activities.”
  • “I enjoyed the inclusion of celebrating different cultures in their originality and diversity.”
  • “I enjoyed the atmosphere. It was vibrant and full of possibilities. I got to meet lots of new people.”

 

Students voted the top three benefits as follows: 1) furthered understanding of how international our university community is, 2) gave them greater awareness of other cultures, and 3) identified international opportunities for when they graduate. According to our students’ feedback, the international strategies of UK business schools clearly offer value that extends far beyond simply balancing the books, by opening up possibilities for all students. Universities can enhance the students experience, engage them with extracurricular activities and create opportunities for a more stimulating international learning environment. We aim to expand the activities in our GoGlobal brand and positively impact students, staff and the community with a series of events that reflect our values and strategy.

 

Professor Liz Warren, Dr Claire Baird, Professor Hannah Holmes, Dr Reece Garcia and Dr Konstantia Litsiou (Manchester Metropolitan University)

 

 

References

IHEC (2023) Is the UK creating global mindsets? IHEC-Report_Is-the-UK-developing-global-mindsets-Report_24_10_2023.pdf (ihecommission.uk) accessed 30/10/23.