Developing a business school international strategy
In business schools there are always new roles and responsibilities for staff, and one of the key areas is that of the internationalisation agenda. Whether staff are experienced or new to the role they need to think strategically about the purpose of internationalisation within the organisation.
On 4 March, business school staff with responsibility for their schools’ international strategies gathered for a workshop, Developing a Business School International Strategy, to reflect on the best practice for keeping these strategies relevant, sharing experiences of success and dealing with challenges, resourcing these strategies, and dealing with issues related to managing upwards to the senior university executive. The following article highlights key discussion points and takeaways from the workshop and discussion that followed.
The context of international strategies
The growth of university internationalisation strategies has been marked since around 2010, with a number of Post-1992 and Russell Group universities recognising the value of conducting a full blown review of their widespread, but often piecemeal, international activities and creating a purposeful and holistic framework to provide a clear statement of university intent as a global player. In an evaluation of some 15 international strategies, the opening session of the workshop showed that a number of prominent universities considered it important to have a ‘stand-alone’ international strategy to complement their corporate strategy, which had been progressively revised and updated from 2010 aspiring to as distant a date as 2026 or even 2034. Universities with such long term-thinking were very clear on the value of their strategies in terms of defining the activities and providing scope for planning the resources and investment needed to fulfil global goals in the 21st Century as a core imperative.
The combination of senior leadership, a comprehensive and all-embracing strategy supported by a comprehensive range of managed metrics and measures, and internationalised infrastructure including dedicated centres and forums were seen to be the basis to achieve scale and scope of sustainable international activity. The pillars of this activity were identified as:
- the development of a strong global brand; measures to establish a strong International university presence;
- a student experience framed around international employability;
- and cultural goals both on and off campus underpinned by a strong range of strategic international partnerships supplying commercial, academic and reputational value.
Conceptualising international strategy
Several schools reported basing their internationalisation framework on those offered by accreditation bodies:
“The school must demonstrate a commitment to address, engage, and respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues (e.g., diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and globalization of economic activity across cultures) through its policies, procedures, curricula, research, and/or outreach activities… Internationalisation is not an explicit expectation, but if pursued, it needs to be Mission driven”
- “research quality should be of a high standard in some areas of activity and show evidence of an international dimension
- individual cohorts should be internationally diverse and balanced where possible
- To ensure an international dimension to the programme, the curriculum should take care to incorporate an understanding of management styles and practices from different regions and cultures, and to include diversity in examples and / or case studies.
- International study opportunities are to be encouraged where they enhance the student learning experience”
Several speakers shared how they were using the EFMD’s radar chart as a point of reference for planning their strategy’s development.
It was noted that developing internationally employable and globally responsible graduates was increasingly central to wider business school activities. After discussion, it was agreed that an internationalisation strategy should be articulated around three key themes in order to prepare graduates for working and managing in an international and intercultural business environment:
- Enhancing the international content and relevance of programmes;
- Maintaining a diverse international and intercultural community on campus and to further diversify the current international student population;
- Developing the global citizenship of students.
Central to the delivery of this were a number of essential dimensions that needed to be considered:
- The enhancement of the curriculum through the integration of comparative international content on courses and programmes;
- The growth in numbers and diversity of the international student population;
- The development of global citizenship of both students and faculty through increasing student and faculty mobility flows;
- Growth and development in collaborative international research;
- Growth and development in connecting globally with business.
As part of the discussion, one case study highlighted how schools are increasingly providing opportunities for all students and staff to gain international experiences. These included running physical spaces on UK campuses, which acted as hubs to run international opportunities and promote study, work and volunteering abroad opportunities. The importance of these spaces for social purposes, in creating rich cultural communities through free welcome activities, events, presentations, workshops and talks, was also emphasised. Some institutions had dedicated professional team members for running these spaces and providing meaningful programmes of activities.
The day was concluded with acknowledgement that UK business schools were operating under conditions of great uncertainty and increasing competition in the international market. It was agreed that a rigorous and holistic framework for assessing the ongoing development international strategies was crucial, although the exact model would likely be best suited to each business school’s strengths and unique context, open sharing of best practice and ideas would continue to be mutually beneficial. This would be especially important as UK business schools would be forced to continue reevaluating and promoting their unique offering on a crowded international stage, in order to remain competitive.
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