By Joel Henry
(page 1 of 3)
In August of this year The University of the West Indies Strategic Plan 2012-2017 was approved by the University Council. Within it was the inclusion of a new area of key strategic focus – internationalisation.Laid out in Perspective 6 of the plan, the document states: “The UWI will use internationalisation as a mechanism to advance key institutional objectives in the global arena.” In other words, UWI has made internationalisation a major component of its blueprint for development over the next five years.
Those closest to the process see it as essential to enhancing its reputation, especially in the field of research, increasing UWI’s commercial viability, improving its standards and even helping it affirm its position as not only the Caribbean’s premier institution for tertiary education, but as a transformative agent for the region.
But what are the specifics of this intensified focus? How is it happening? Why now? And what are the expected benefits?
There are several definitions for internationalisation. As Mrs Althea Gordon- Clennon, Senior Assistant Registrar for the International Students’ Office at UWI’s Mona campus (one of the University’s key units charged with international functions) says, “we have had long discussions about what internationalisation means and what it can mean for UWI.”
In the context of tertiary level institutions, the most common definition of internationalisation is the highest stage of international relations among universities. Another handy definition is engagement (including competition) on the global level. This type of engagement can take myriad forms, from foreign student enrolment to accessing international funding.
But it doesn’t end there. It’s easier to engage with the world if your institution is world class. It’s easier to attract international attention if you have a competitive advantage. Internationalisation is therefore just as concerned with meeting and exceeding international standards, establishing an international reputation based on quality, and suffusing the institution with what UK Guardian writer Peter Scott calls an “international spirit.”
Like Mrs Gordon-Clennon, Mr Sharan Chandradath Singh, Director of the Office of Institutional Advancement and Internationalisation at the UWI St Augustine campus has been in the vanguard of the University’s internationalisation efforts for years and is one of its chief proponents, ashas been the Director of External Relations and Head of the International Office at the Cave Hill campus, Dr Anthony Fisher.
Mr Singh outlines several aspects of internationalisation. They include primary (student mobility, strengthening international research collaboration), secondary (faculty mobility, international dimension of curriculum, international development projects, joint academic progammes) and tertiary (development of twinning programmes, establishment of branch campuses, commercial export/import of academic programmes, extracurricular activities for international students).
Many of these policies and activities have been carried out by the University through the Campus International Offices for years. In fact, internationalisation itself has been a feature of UWI for quite sometime. However, Strategic Plan 2012-2017 is a dramatic statement of committed policy towards internationalisation.
“This university has always paid attention to international matters because the academic world is an international world. We’ve also always had collaboration with a great many international institutions and in more recent times we have had a lot of contacts and links with other universities and research institutions,” says Dr David Rampersad, who at the time of this writing was Director of Research, Development and Knowledge Transfer at UWI St Augustine.
The Office of Regionalisation and Internationalisation
Dr Rampersad is intimately aware of the University’s heightened emphasis on internationalisation. In November 2012 he is scheduled to take up the post of Executive Director of the Office of Regionalisation and Internationalisation in the Vice Chancellery of UWI, a new office created under the directive of Vice- Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris.
Dr Rampersad chaired the working group that created the draft report on the Office of Regionalisation and Internationalisation, and its members included the three Campus International Office directors, Dr Christine Marrett (Senior Programme Officer of UWI’s Open Campus), Ms Annette Insanally (UWI’s Coordinator of the Latin American- Caribbean Centre), Mrs Dawn Marie De Four-Gill (the University’s Director of Marketing and Communications) and Mr Winston Bayley (University Ambassador, Government and Private Sector Relations). The working group delivered its report in December 2011.
The Office of Regionalisation and Internationalisation was created to both be responsible for international issues and also collaborate with the Campus International Offices (CIOs). Its role will be “big picture,” dealing in the first instance with honing an internationalist outlook and strategy throughout the university. Some of its strategic objectives include – ensuring that UWI embeds a regional and international outlook in all its plans and actions, advocacy to major stakeholders like governments and the private sector, and guiding academic units in making resource and development decisions. Dr Fisher sees an important and complimentary role for the Office of Regionalisation and Internationalisation.
“I see the office as being an advocate for the things we need to do to become further internationalised,” he said.