Questions on the Internationalisation of Higher Education (Scott and Brandenburg & De Witt)

The End of Internationalization
Brandenburg and De Witt (2011)
pp. 15-17

Universities are are ‘internationalising’ now
Peter Scott (2011)

If Higher Education is an export, what are we exporting?


a product or service sold abroad.
“wool and mohair were the principal exports”

  • TRADE:
    HE as an export becomes a tradable item. This can be problematic in the sense that education becomes re-conceptualized and aligned with notions existing within the agendas of trade and world markets, potentially narrowing its activities and perspectives to a particular framework.
  • BRAND:
    Strong focus on recruitment of students from overseas, selling an image or a brand, selling of an idea of an experience, little prescience on what that means for the bigger picture – Brandeburg and de Witt’s paper suggests a need for direction and definition around the goals of internationalization.
    Commercial, business minded approach, mostly centered around economic growth, a governmental approach to considering the future of the economy and capital over anything else (such as social or cultural capital). This is also reflected in the kinds of statistics and analysis that are presented by HESA (eg. Earnings amounted over life span of tertiary educated individual vs. individual who did not continue to HE)
    Strong focus on students as customers under the CRA 2015, the idea that a degree is something that is purchased – emphasis on financial exchange over the intellectual, pedagogic, cultural, social etc. This brief article also raises some ideas on this point:


What should we be exporting?


an enlightening experience.
“Petrus is a good workman—it is an education to watch him”


Under the premise of internationalization, I think it is important to acknowledge the ‘good’ goals Scott deems in his article, of the internationalisation of education, being transformation and exchange.

as Scott points out education has always been mobile “without any need for managerial-bureaucratic initiatives to “internationalise” the university”.

In fact, philosophers in ancient Greece often taught and walked. The association of talking, teaching, philosophizing and walking are historically widespread and celebrated in the names of many central European plazas. (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust)


What does that second question assume about our aims/purposes (or those of Higher Education)?

It assumes that we must acknowledge, with the intention of creating a path ahead, that education must be defined considering the current moment, but that in my opinion its purpose (which of course is also up for debate…!) should not be lost at the expense of a global homogenising capitalist agenda, which raises up financial gain over what I see as more pertinent issues not concerned with profit but aligned to the Platonic ideal of common good, individual and social justice.

To stick with Plato just for a moment, his famous allegory of the prisoners in the cave in the seventh book of ‘The Republic’ can be used to express the benefits of new perspectives, which evidently can be gained through exchange of ideas, methods, approaches, across cultures, backgrounds, life experiences and so on. These social and cultural goals of the internationalisation of HE are key.

In this sense I also feel what should be acknowledged in light of the internationalisation of education is that we are embodied peripatetics, and this physical fact should be acknowledged against any disembodied sensation of internationalisation.

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