Diverse global engagement strategies: from branch campuses to online degrees

International branch campuses receive a lot of attention, however, they form a small proportion university internationalization strategies. More recently, online learning is showing promising potential for global engagement.
A recent report shows that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is shaping its internationalisation future around its prior initiative like OpenCourseWare and now edX. It forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated “into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials, and even badges” with the possibility that “the credentialing entity may be different from the institution that offers the course”. The report adds that the “digital education revolution has the potential to alter the way MIT interacts not only with its on-campus students, but with an entire globe of learners”.
I recently chaired a session entitled “Global engagement strategies: What works, what doesn’t” at the annual conference of Asia Pacific Association of International Education (APAIE) in Seoul. The expert panel presented diverse institutional perspectives in achieving the goals of their internationalization strategies:
  • Doris Sohmen‐Pao, Executive Vice President, Yale‐NUS College, Singapore
  • Robert Coelen, Vice President, Stenden University, Netherlands
  • Downing A. Thomas, Associate Provost, The University of Iowa, US
  • Joe Chicharo, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Wollongong, Australia
Interestingly, three of the four panelists have some form of international branch campus engagement. Some of the key “lessons learned” shared by the panelists included:
– Long-term commitment that embodies internationalization as a core value is critical. Endeavors with myopic vision and intentions of quick bucks are doomed to fail.
– Attracting and retaining the “right” people that align with the value of internationalization. It takes entrepreneurial spirit and staying power to execute these complex strategies.
– Large scale projects require local academic partner that brings experience and mitigates risks of failure, however, finding the right fit partner is a challenge.
– Articulating institutional priority in terms of market and type of students is critical. Engagement strategies that try to be everything to everyone do not work.
In this context, institutions need to recognize the diversity of models and assess, prepare and adapt their global engagement strategies in line with the emerging opportunities and challenges.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha