Futuring Paper – Campus Internationalization

Harvey Charles, Ph.D.
Center for International Education & Global Strategy
Steven Messner, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology


Over the past twenty years, globalization has emerged as a force that rivals the industrial revolution in terms of its breath and depth of impact on society.  Globalization speaks to the myriads of ways by which our world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent. It touches all areas of human endeavor, and higher education is no exception.  National borders are now routinely breached by technologies that facilitate communication, transportation and collaboration in ways previously unthinkable.  Scholars collaborate virtually on research projects, classes are taught simultaneously to multiple groups of students spread across different time zones, and millions of international students access degree programs in countries far away from their homes.  In effect, we now live in a global age and whether university administrators realize it or not, higher education is now “explicitly and fundamentally a global enterprise.” (American Council on Education, 2011, pg. 5).

This new reality demands that higher education respond to globalization in more intentional ways.  Indeed, comprehensive internationalization is higher education’s response to globalization and is defined as “a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs, and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected institutions” (Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement).  Unfortunately, US institutions have not been particularly responsive to reinventing themselves relative to globalization.  Addressing the state of internationalization on US campuses, Green, Luu and Burris, (2008) state that “overall, internationalization does not permeate the fabric of most institutions; it is not yet sufficiently deep, nor as widespread as it should be to prepare students to meet the challenges that they will face once they graduate.  Seen from a comparative perspective, the situation is just as problematic.  In a summary of the International Association of Universities Global Survey conducted in 2013, Green (2014) concludes that American institutions simply do not make internationalization as high a priority as others around the world.  Furthermore, she notes that although interest in regional cooperation among international universities is high, when institutions seek allies outside of their own regions, the US is generally not the first choice. 

Viewing things from another angle, the metrics used by global rankings organization (eg., Times Higher Education and QS World Ranking System) can also be quite instructive.  “International outlook” (rating institutions on their international-to-domestic student ratios and international-to-domestic staff ratios) and “international collaboration” (measuring a university’s total research journal publications that have at least one international co-author) are the two metrics that help determine an institution’s level of internationalization.  It is not insignificant that the great minds that determine what constitutes the standards for great universities have included these metrics among the list of criteria as they speak to institutional responsiveness to the realities of globalization.  To the extent that global collaboration in multiple areas of endeavor is now the new paradigm in higher education, the United States simply cannot continue to believe that this is irrelevant to its future or that its dominant status over the past 50 years is guaranteed going forward. 

In light of the imperatives around internationalization, the question to the University at Albany becomes one of whether it will embrace this moment of campus-wide reflection and envisioning to construct a vision of strategic engagement with the world and a commitment to prepare its graduates to be globally competent. 

The American Council on Education offers six elements of comprehensive internationalization including:

  • Articulated institutional commitment
  • Administrative leadership, structure and staffing
  • Curriculum, co-curriculum and learning outcomes
  • Faculty policies and practices
  • Student mobility
  • Collaboration and partnership

To the extent that these elements are reflected in the commitments to transform the University at Albany into a global campus, it provides further assurance that we will both survive and thrive in an age of globalization, that we will continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, discovery and innovation, and even more importantly, that we will be positioned to prepare our students to navigate the challenges and exploit the opportunities that they will face in this era.

The following are the answers to the four questions that will further articulate the role that campus internationalization can play in moving the university forward:

Question #1: What forces are acting on the issue of campus internationalization today that are internal to the university, regional and national?

Forces Internal to the University:

  • The limited resources with which the university must carry out its mission. 
  • The absence of meaningful rewards for faculty engaged in campus internationalization notwithstanding institutional rhetoric that encourages such engagement.
  • Deficiencies in the academic infrastructure that impact global learning.  Examples include inadequacies in the language portfolio available to students, a one-course global requirement in the liberal studies program, and shortcomings in optional and required curricula exposure that guarantees globally competence among students upon graduation.

Forces that are regional and national?

  • Globalization.  In response to the rapidly accelerating interconnectedness and interdependence of our world, institutions are seeking collaborations and partnerships with scholars and other institutions around the world.  There is evidence every day that such partnerships create success in terms of research findings, grant funding and new programs of study.  To remain competitive, U Albany must establish and support a strategic posture toward global engagement. 
  • Competition for domestic and international students from east coast institutions and other SUNY campuses.  Many institutions seem to be going after greater numbers of international students because of the significant revenue they bring.
  • Strong immigration to New York, bringing greater ethnic and racial diversity to the region.  The state of New York is one of the most diverse in the US and has a significant immigrant population.  This serves as a magnet for new immigrants and helps us to access a pool of students that can bring further diversity to the campus.
  • The financing of public higher education.  As the state and federal governments commit less resources to higher education, U Albany will have to become more creative in generating the resources needed to support this important dimension of the academy.
  • The overwhelming advantages that our status as native English speakers confer on us in a world where English is the language of academia, but the disadvantages inherent in this to the extent that it discourages us from learning from and engaging with other cultures.

Question #2: In 5 – 10 years, what forces will further shape the issue of campus internationalization? What forces will accelerate change?

  • The need to be in regular contact with people based in different parts of the world for purposes of work, study, travel, or advocacy, etc.
  • Increased global capacity for hosting international students.  A number of countries like Malaysia, China, Singapore and South Africa have made an explicit commitment to serve as host to larger numbers of international students.
  • Rapid growth in the global population of international students.  This population will rise from the current 4.5 million to 8 million in the next 10 years.
  • Increased competition for international students around the world as they are viewed as an important source of revenue. It is therefore unlikely that the United States’ international student population which now stands at 22% will rise, and there is a good chance that it may fall.
  • Technological innovations that will support internationally collaborative research as well as provide different approaches for the delivery of coursework, such as developments in distance learning.
  • An acceleration in the creation of international partnerships and collaborations in higher education
  • The increasing speed associated with the production of knowledge
  • The disaggregation of programs of study to a more a la carte approach
  • More access to more information
  • Climate change and diversity as global phenomena will force us to grapple with our responsibilities and commitments as global citizens.

What forces will slow down progress?

  • The rising cost of higher education in the US
  • The declining support in government funding for basic research
  • The acceleration of for-profit and non-profit entities in funding research that serve narrow agendas
  • Bureaucratic challenges of SUNY central relative to U Albany
  • The perception among some students that U Albany faculty are unwelcoming and care more about their own research than student learning

How will teaching and learning, administration and student services be affected?

  • More alternatives to the traditional 16-week semester as students take courses in a manner more convenient to their own schedules, be they courses over shorter periods of time, some in person and others online
  • A fundamental shift in the kind of student services provided if fewer students are present on a traditional campus
  • Greater collaboration in transnational relationships that can influence teaching and learning.
  • Developing different models to serve students who will be educated in contexts quite different from what currently exits, eg., serving students who are in an online space.

 Question #3: What are the implications for the institution, and students, staff and faculty? Specifically, what new opportunities may be created in the future?

  • The opportunity to make modifications in the curriculum so that it responds more directly to the need for citizen thinkers and workers with global skills.
  • The opportunity to ensure that campus internationalization initiatives are accessible and affordable
  • The opportunity to achieve a heightened seriousness about global engagement among faculty and administrators
  • The opportunity to become more strategic in supporting student mobility
  • The opportunity to identify and pursue appropriate international partnerships and collaborations
  • The opportunity to help faculty become more adept in preparing globally competent students through international teaching and research experiences
  • Using new technologies to help faculty facilitate global learning experiences for students
  • The opportunity to help students become more adept in cross-cultural interactions
  • The opportunity to link global learning with other cross cutting issues or global phenomena like climate change and diversity to further this agenda

Question #4: How will the future developments and opportunities affect the university – impact departments or units?  How might U Albany respond to these within the strategic planning process?

  • Adopting an understanding of a 21st century education for all U Albany students as including systematic global learning in the curriculum.
  • Commit to the internationalization of the curriculum.  The curriculum is at the heart of campus internationalization.  There are many tools that can be deployed to achieve this objective, but the first priority must be to ensure that all students have multiple, intentional and substantive encounters with global perspectives in the curriculum.  A commitment to global learning should characterize not only the liberal studies program but every discipline.  Indeed, all disciplines should be taught from a global perspective.  In this regard, the following are important considerations:
    • Articulating global learning outcomes as a standard part of disciplinary expectations, consistent with criteria that are reflected in the standards of many accreditation bodies.
    • Supporting faculty in internationalizing the courses they teach. 
    • Supporting faculty in securing international teaching and research experiences
  • Develop more cutting-edge degree programs for which there is a great demand by international students
  • Develop and expand capacity for greater international intake for the most popular and highly ranked programs.
  • Develop more robust and financially attractive summer session programs that will appeal to international students as a way to shorten their time in the US and make their programs of study more affordable.
  • Strengthen the university’s infrastructure and expectation for modern language learning.  Whatever is done in this regard should take into account the present and future realities for student understanding of and engagement with dominant and emerging cultural and linguistic groups around the world while at the same time reaffirming a more robust role for the place of the humanities in the education of students.
  • Make education abroad (study, research, internship) which is understood to be a high impact practice (George Kuh) less of an optional experience and more of an expectation so that it becomes more the rule than the exception.  Through curriculum integration, it can become more deeply embedded in the curriculum.  This also acknowledges the growing importance of experiential learning within higher education.
  • Revisit tenure and promotion requirements to align them with the expectation for faculty engagement in campus and curriculum internationalization.  Without the incentive of having such commitments acknowledged in what is the most meaningful reward system that the university has, this work will remain marginal.  In our research intensive setting, there must be clear links between research productivity and internationalization for this to work well.
  • Work intentionally to cultivate the values around campus and curriculum internationalization among young faculty.
  • Commit to hiring new faculty who are already committed to this vision.
  • Establish targets for new international student enrollment
  • Enhance the university’s capacity to facilitate stronger English language skills for incoming international students


American Council on Education (2011).  Strength Through Global Leadership and Engagement: U.S. Higher Education in the 21st Century.  Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Global Engagement.  Washington, DC.

CIGE: http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Pages/CIGE-Model-for-Comprehensive-Internationalization.aspx

Green, M.  (2014).  The Best in the World? Not in Internationalization.  Trends & Insights.  NAFSA:  Association of International educators.

Green, M. F., Luu, D., and Burris, B. (2008). Mapping internationalization on U.S. Campuses: 2008 edition. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.