Internationalization Strategies and Policies in Second-Tier Higher Education Institutions

Hans de Wit, Miri Yemini and Randall Martin


A significant number of studies (Altbach and Knight 2007; Beerkens et al. 2010; De Wit 2013a; Deardorff and Jones 2012) indicate growing support for internationalization in higher education in recent years. According to the fourth Global Survey of International Association of Universities (Egron-Polak and Hudson 2014), 89 % of universities worldwide claim to have an institutional policy or to have implemented internationalization within their overall strategy, and 22 % are preparing an internationalization strategy.

Indeed, internationalization is transforming from a reactive issue to a proactive, strategic one; from added value to mainstream. As such, its focus, scope and content evolved substantially. This growing interest has translated into active development of policies, programs, and infrastructure at institutional, local, and national levels, as well as a call for a more comprehensive approach to and action on internationalization in higher education (Hudzik 2011). Moreover, with the perception of internationalization as critical to higher education institutions, differences in the respective colleges and universities' ability to internationalize and in their scope and intensity of internationalization may influence their competitiveness and even survival (Cohen et al. 2014). While researchers generally accept Jane Knight's definition of internationalization as “the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education” (Knight 2004, p. 11), the concept itself has expanded over the years and become rather broad and diverse, involving different stages, meanings, and rationales by country and region.[1] While most of the historical studies on internationalization in higher education focus on research universities, in the last decade, several important efforts were made to address internationalization in different types of higher education institutions

—mainly in community colleges in the US (Manns 2014; Romano 2002).

Indeed, internationalization's mainstreaming results in its expansion beyond the traditional scope of research-oriented universities, including other types of education providers: in particular community colleges, applied sciences schools, and other institutions that typically proliferated with education's global massification trends and the rising public access to higher education (Yemini et al. 2014a). Research into internationalization in such 'second-tier'[2] institutions is lacking, with the exception of a few focused studies (De Wit 2011; Maringe 2009; Raby and Valeau 2007; Waechter 1999; Yemini et al. 2014a). The present study aims to characterize the nature of internationalization within 'second-tier' higher education institutions in Israel, the Netherlands, and Canada, describing the process on national, regional, and institutional levels. Such institutions, which comprise a substantial part of the higher education sector, distinguish themselves from 'research universities' by means of a vocational and professional focus on under-graduate teaching for bachelor or associate degrees and a local, provincial, or national scope in the employability their graduates are trained for and the research efforts they undertake. Moreover, these institutions are generally characterized as younger and more entrepreneurial in comparison to research-oriented universities (Yemini et al. 2014b).

  • [1] For an overview of internationalization in higher education, see Deardorff et al. (2012). For a debate about the need to rethink internationalization (see International Association of Universities 2012; De Wit 2013b)
  • [2] In this study, we refer to 'second tier' higher education institutions as defined by Arum et al. (2007), for example. Indeed, the term lacks a singular, clear-cut definition and sometimes may induce controversial responses as it fosters classification based on traditional, conservative measures. We choose to use this term to describe a complex array of institutions in different countries that differ significantly from one another in their fundamental characteristics; thus, the full array of their respective characterizations is difficult to capture in one term. Notably, therefore, we use the term, 'second tier institution' in this study in an exclusively technical manner, not in any normative sense
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