Linkages among colleges and universities in different nations are becoming a central element in a reworked understanding of academic internationalization. Internationalization has long been understood as infusing global perspectives into the teaching, research, and service missions of an institution. It is now increasingly also seen as creating the international relationships that take institutions out into the world, create the international dialogue needed for 21st century knowledge, and open the door for mutual growth and transformation.
In this light, internationalization is increasingly understood as a collective rather than solitary endeavor. Partnerships among colleges and universities in different nations are a kind of “collaborative internationalization,” in which institutions model what they want their students to do and internationalization becomes a process of generating new insights and impacts by bringing together what had been separated.
Thus it is, as recent surveys have shown, that educational partnerships are on the rise around the world. At the same time, there is also a move to construct partnership portfolios in a more thoughtful manner, to avoid having dozens of MOUs with little activity, and to focus on a smaller number of what are often called “strategic partnerships.”
Definition: Strategic partnerships
Sustained, long-term, and robust linkages with a carefully selected set of institutions in order to:
- Advance the mission and reflect strengths of each partner
- Carry mutual benefit
- Have broad and deep impact
- Engage a range of faculty, staff, and students
- Generate common goals, projects, products through dialogue and collaboration over time
- Combine resources
- Commit to the relationship as much as any particular project
Strategic partnerships can be transformational for students and institutions alike. They provide a particularly rich matrix for student mobility because they:
- Create campus-wide atmosphere encouraging ALL students to connect with the partner nation and institution
- Lend themselves to bi-national networks of students who work together and stay in touch even after their face-to-face meetings
- Bring in international students, creating an international atmosphere right on campus
- Enable faculty who know little about the partner country to become involved
- Engage administrators as well
- Reflect a belief that international learning requires international dialogue
- Facilitate the development of materials/projects tailored to each partner
- Foster creative interdisciplinarity
- Institutionally model cross-national competencies wanted for students
- Create a known and trusted base in the other country
- Build complex understandings of partner and partner’s country that deepen over time
- Result in new projects neither side could do on its own
- Build resources through sharing and collaboration
- Establish defined concentrations of activity that attract external funding
- Become a sustained, integral part of each institution
- Last long beyond their original proposers
It is thus little surprise that 67% of Japanese students who studied in the United States in 2013 did so through institutional partnerships, according to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), which estimates the number of U.S.-Japanese partnerships at over 2,500.
Although only some of these partnerships can be considered strategic, many have the potential to develop in that direction. The guidelines found throughout this RoadMap are designed to assist colleges and universities in building and sustaining partnerships that do just that.
Next up: Partnership Basics »