The Covid-19 pandemic was a major disruptor to America’s international college-education efforts, but college leaders surveyed by the American Council on Education remain optimistic about the future of higher education’s global competition.
Sixty percent of colleges said their level of institutional internationalization during the pandemic is low or very low, according to a new report, “Mapping Internationalization on US Campuses,” released today. In contrast, 47 percent of organizations said they accelerated their international activities in the years before the pandemic, 2016 to 2020.
Nevertheless, academic leaders affirm a positive initiative about the future of internationalization activities, since two-thirds predicted that their institution will increase the overall level of international engagement in the next five years.
Despite that optimistic outlook, the report, the fifth in a series of surveys conducted by the council since 2006, shows a shift away from international education as a priority field that actually began before the pandemic. For example, in 2016, 72 percent of colleges reported that they are accelerating their internationalization efforts, while only about half of the institutions in the previous years were introducing Covid.
The number of colleges that include international or global education in their mission statements or strategic plans has also declined over the years. In a 2012 report, 51 percent of respondents said internationalization was part of the institutional mission. By 2017, participation had reached 49 percent. In this latest survey, 43 percent answered in the affirmative.
Likewise, the percentage of colleges reporting that international education is among the top five priorities in their strategic planning over time has been determined: 52 percent in 2012, 47 percent in 2017, and just 36 percent in the most recent report.
The authors of the report do not go into the reasons for this transfer, but as Chronicle As previously reported, factors may include the continued pressure of the budget following the 2009 accession, the growing concern with the negative social and economic consequences of globalization, and the critical, political and politicking between the Trump administration that has placed global and international academic mobility. companies in the crosshairs.
There are also questions about whether colleges are truly committed to international engagement. In fact, in the latest report, only 18 percent of respondents said they had a formal plan to strike partnerships with universities around the world. Just 28 percent said they had assessed the impact of their international engagement in the last three years.
Taken together, the findings paint a difficult picture of American colleges emphasizing international education at a time when global connectivity and collaboration is more critical than ever — as marked by the pandemic itself.
But at the same time, the college leaders’ sense of confidence about the future of internationalization suggests a possible scenario, rather the best, in which the pandemic-promised delay of many international activities could lead to a stronger response. You may have to wait until the next survey to measure it definitively.
In the meantime, here are some additional highlights from the recently released survey, which includes responses from 903 organizations:
The college leaders’ experience and opinions on global engagement differ from an institutional perspective. Respondents at doctoral institutions, for example, were much more bullish about future international engagement, with 78 percent saying they expected the level of internationalization of colleges to increase over the next five years. Among those affiliated with colleges, 56 percent had a similarly positive outlook.
Likewise, doctoral and baccalaureate institutions were much more likely to include international education in their mission statements than affiliated or specialized colleges.
Colleges of education and diversity serve as key drivers for internationalization. Although tuition dollars from international students have become more critical to the bottom line of colleges, only a third of respondents said that “generating wind for the institution” was the primary reason for the global competition, which removed the fourth choice.
The top two strategies were “better student preparation for a global age” selected by 70 percent of respondents and “diversifying students, faculty and staff” by 64 percent.
Colleges have increased the popularity of international students both on and off campus. Three-quarters of respondents reported having an organization at their institution or at American schools for international students, up from 69 percent five years earlier. Two parts of the college were said to provide individual academic support services. And more than half said they offer mental health services for international students, who have been a particularly vulnerable group during the pandemic.
Professional organizations have increased the opportunities of faculty members related to internationalization, so that workshops help to implement more international learning outcomes into the curriculum and use technology to enhance the internationalization of courses.
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