Internationalization in Higher Education

In most countries, internationalization has come to comprise an increasingly important element of higher education and of the academic enterprise. Individual universities vary in their cross-border activities and their capacity to take advantage of global pressures and forces (Marginson 2007; Stromquist 2007). Increasingly, higher education institutions' management strive to internationalize their establishments (De Wit 2002; Hudzik 2011), while governments invest more resources in this process. De Wit (2002) details the rationales behind such institutional and governmental internationalization efforts, which include long-term or immediate economic benefits; national political benefits involving security, stability, peace, and ideological influence; an academic quest to meet international standards of teaching, research, and service; and quality of life improvements that result from learners' socio-cultural integration. Knight (2004) addresses the transformation in rationales for internationalization that took place in the recent decade from socio-cultural and academic justifications to mainly economic and political ones, including the concerns of aging populations and labour market development. Given this complex set of motivations for internationalization, diverse academic institutions may differ in their incentives to internationalize (Stier 2004); hence, comprehensive comparative analysis is necessary in understanding this phenomenon, especially within the more recently internationalizing second-tier educational institutions.

Second-Tier Higher Education Institutions

Since World War II, higher education systems have expanded rapidly and have been transforming organizationally. Researchers documented a tremendous growth in the number of students and the diversification of institutions of higher learning, as well as the massification of higher education (e.g. Teichler 2004). Usually, firstand second-tier institutions differ in their selectivity, curriculum, administration, cost, academic versus practical orientation, and prestige (Shavit et al. 2004, August). Despite the tremendous variations in the types of second-tier institutions (including community colleges, universities of applied sciences, and other academic and vocational colleges), as discussed in the definition of the term above (see footnote 2), such colleges are generally believed to open the gates of higher education to previously excluded social groups, thus enabling diversity. For example, four-year colleges in the US and some primarily two-year colleges in Canada are considered less prestigious than the elite or selective universities, but offer similar study fields and grant academic degrees. These institutions offer mainly vertical expansions, offering access to 'less successful' members of the same populations already being served by top-tier universities. Other newly-established institutions do not grant academic degrees (such as community colleges in the US) or take the form of vocational or semi-professional under-graduate training (e.g., the German Fachhochschulen). These institutions are expected to cater to new populations of students, thereby expanding student diversity (Ayalon and Yogev 2006).

Some (particularly European) countries have explicitly binary higher education systems comprised of universities and colleges of applied sciences (such as Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands). In other countries, the differentiation is less stark. The status of the degrees such institutions grant is debated, and some countries (such as the US and Canada, as well as some developing economies) have initiated policies aimed at strengthening the vocational and professional dimension in higher education. In conjunction, resistance has emerged in many developing countries to second-tier higher education that is considered of lower status and prestige; the proliferated use of the label 'university' seems to maintain perceptions that do not always accurately reflect reality.

In summary, the definition of second-tier institutions is vague and their classification is diverse, evolving and with no clear direction. Although clear definitions and statistics are difficult to provide in most countries, these institutions comprise a substantive part of the higher education sector, tend to be vocationally and professionally oriented, focus predominantly on under-graduate teaching, offer mainly bachelor or associate degrees, and research issues of a more local or national scope.

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