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Insights from EdTech and Pancakes: Protocols for internationalizing higher education

Mar 18, 2024 | EdTech

In episode 6 of “EdTech and Pancakes,” we hosted Professor Sebastián Bruque, a renowned advocate and consultant for internationalizing higher education as well as the Deputy Rector of Internationalization at the University of Jaén in Spain. 

We explored essential pillars for internationalizing universities, including student and staff mobility and ways to leverage innovative technologies. Additionally, we discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by nationalistic movements, varying admissions systems across the globe and the significant role technology, particularly AI, plays in transforming the admissions process. 

Protocols for internationalizing higher education

What is the essence and purpose of international education? 

“Even the word university comes from ‘universal.’ We need to have the same global perspective because knowledge is something that should be applicable to the entire humanity”, says Professor Bruque. He reminds us that international education is inherently motivated by the international economy, a force that has shaped the fabric of higher education across centuries. He adds “Especially countries in continental Europe need to rethink their systems for international applicants because in many cases they are losing thousands of international students that are very talented and can provide value for local and national economies.” 

The history and politics of internationalizing education 

The journey of internationalizing education is not only a narrative of academic and economic ambition but also a reflection of the world’s evolving political landscapes. Professor Bruque notes, “The dynamics of the economy and international politics were polarized, with the Soviet bloc on one side and Liberal Western democracies on the other, up until the end of the eighties. Consequently, everything underwent significant changes in the eighties and nineties.”   

What are the pillars of internationalizing a university? 

In discussing the critical aspects of internationalizing a university, Professor Bruque illuminates 3 fundamental pillars essential to this process: student mobility, the internationalization of staff and the significant role of technology. 

Student mobility 

The first pillar, student mobility, is highlighted as a cornerstone of international education. “The freedom of movement of students…is the most important factor we have,” Professor Bruque notes, underlining the essence of physical and online mobility in creating a truly global educational environment. This mobility is not just about crossing geographical boundaries but about fostering an exchange of cultures, ideas and knowledge that enriches the learning experience for everyone involved. 

Internationalization of staff 

The second pillar, the internationalization of staff, works in tandem with student mobility. Bringing in faculty from diverse backgrounds and expertise adds depth to the curriculum and teaching methods, introducing students to a broad spectrum of perspectives and practices. This diversity among the staff is crucial for institutions aiming to provide new knowledge, practices, and technological insights, thereby enriching the academic and social fabric of the university. 

Technological integrations 

Lastly, technology’s role as the third pillar cannot be overstated. The integration of technological advancements and online learning platforms is reshaping the landscape of higher education. “Mobility, international mobility and online mobility should be shaped and refined together with advanced technological tools,” Professor Bruque explains. This approach not only makes education more accessible but also enables institutions to offer a more personalized and engaging learning experience, preparing students for a future where digital proficiency is paramount. 

Nationalistic movements as an obstacle to internationalizing higher education 

Dr. Bruque adds that nationalistic and anti-globalization movements are another significant factor influencing the landscape of international education and posing challenges to global access to education. As these movements gain momentum, universities worldwide are challenged to navigate these complex dynamics, striving to maintain an international outlook while addressing local concerns and sensitivities. 

Centralized vs. decentralized admissions systems  

One of the crucial elements in the internationalization of higher education, as discussed by Professor Bruque, is the contrast between centralized and decentralized admissions systems. This distinction plays a pivotal role in how universities attract international students and navigate the complexities of global education landscapes. 

Centralized admissions systems, often found in continental European countries, place significant control in the hands of national authorities. While there are advantages to using national systems, they often can create significant barriers for international students due to rigid testing requirements and limited flexibility in the admissions process. On the other hand, decentralized systems often grant universities the autonomy to devise their admissions strategies, offering more adaptability to attract a diverse student body. 

Professor Bruque notes, “Internationalization is absolutely necessary for the survival of higher education institutions”. This survival is intricately linked to how effectively institutions can adapt to the demands of an international student body, something that centralized systems may hinder due to their inherent rigidity. 

Role of technological Innovation to internationalize education: 3 groups of barriers 

Innovation plays a crucial role in the internationalization of education, according to Professor Bruque. However, three primary groups of barriers can hinder this process: 

Legal and regulatory barriers 

These include national laws and regulations that govern student visas and work permits, which can vary significantly from one country to another and pose a significant challenge for international students. 

Economic and financial barriers 

The cost of education, living expenses and the financial requirements for visa applications often deter potential international students. These economic barriers are particularly pronounced in countries with high living costs. 

Technological and procedural barriers 

This group includes the challenges associated with accessing and navigating the admissions systems of international universities. Professor Bruque points out, “Technological and procedural barriers…are preventing many international students from understanding the admissions system of many international universities, thereby hindering their ability to enroll.” 

When analysing the barriers of entry, Dr. Bruque reveals that technological advancements offer the greatest ROI for universities that seek to internationalize. 

How will AI impact the future of higher education? 

According to Dr. Bruque, artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize both how students choose programs and universities, as well as the design of the admissions process. International students may not be looking anymore for bachelor’s or master’s degrees, but instead prioritize shorter and more focused courses. In this sense, AI will influence the choice of the model of education on a fundamental level, which will influence other aspects of higher education. 

Watch the full episode of EdTech and Pancakes with Dr. Sebastián Bruque

Listen to the audio version of the podcast on DreamApply’s website, Spotify or iTunes. 

About DreamApply 

Founded in 2011 in Estonia, DreamApply is an innovation-driven EdTech organization that improves access to education around the globe. DreamApply’s application management software helps more than 300 educational institutions across 40 countries to improve admissions, marketing, financial and other internal processes. 

DreamApply’s easy-to-use and customizable software increases student enrollment by 30% and reduces application processing time by 40%. With features designed with and for educational institutions, and integrations with commonly used systems, DreamApply empowers teams to get more done with less effort. 

Continue exploring by requesting your free, personalized demo. 

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