Funding Strategies

When trying to identify and study patterns of funding of internationalisation, one could look not only at individual funding instruments, but also at funding strategies at institutional, national, or regional level. Strategies could include principles for funding, instruments and methods, institutions or agencies with particular responsibilities in this area (for the national or regional level), or units (in the case of higher education institutions).

We have undertaken a comparative analysis of national strategies with regards to internationalisation in several European countries in another study (Matei and Iwinska 2015). That analysis showed that studying national internationalisation strategies with attention to their funding aspects (or “funding strategies”) is particularly informative to understand the key characteristics of internationalisation activities in a given country. Moreover, it allows understanding and perhaps even predicting the impact of various internationalisation activities.

Funding strategies can be identified and studied at institutional level as well. Where they exist, they usually make a difference. A comparative study by Childress (2009) offers a very good illustration of how different institutional strategies (e.g. differential allocation of resources) have an impact on the successful involvement of the faculty in internationalisation activities.

It can be expected that institutional strategies for the funding of internationalisation, where they exist, can be studied without significant difficulties. On the national level, however, it might be more challenging because funding relevant for internationalisation can be traced in a number of different policy approaches (e.g. related to economic development, competitiveness, labour, migration/immigration, foreign trade, etc.). Therefore, in studying the patterns of funding of internationalisation, one also needs to pay attention to policies, or measures that are not directly or explicitly aimed at supporting or influencing internationalisation. A recent example is discussed below to illustrate the complexity of the issue. Many other examples exist and can be reviewed.

Recently, two decisions with regards to funding (not funding of internationalisation per se) taken by the government of England have been expected by some higher education scholars or university administrators to have a very significant impact on internationalisation aspects, in particular on student mobility (Broadbent and Middlehurst 2013; Greennway 2012). The measures were adopted primarily in order to change the funding system for undergraduate students by shifting a large part of the cost burden on students themselves and their families, rather than on taxpayers. A related reason was to permit the growth of individual budgets of universities, while reducing the proportion of funding that comes from public sources. One of these decisions refers to the change in the maximum level of the tuition fee that could be charged for undergraduate studies (currently 9000 GBP), linked with the introduction of a broad and easy to access income-contingent student-loan mechanism. The other one is about the use of the same standards and rules with regard to tuition fees and student loans that apply to domestic students, for all foreign students who are EU-citizens (this is in fact in line with European legislation). If the EU citizens are treated in the same way for the purpose of tuition fee payments (same cap) and student loans (same conditions), in turn, there was no government-imposed cap on tuition fees to be charged to non-EU students, which makes it possible for universities to raise tuition fees significantly above 9000 GBP for this group of students, without possibility to access the student loan mechanism. These decisions, put in practice only recently (beginning with 2012 for the new tuition fee cap) were feared to have an impact on the flux of incoming students from other countries, and also on outgoing students. With undergraduate studies becoming more expensive in England, in fact at least nominally the most expensive in Europe, some expected an exodus of English students to other countries and also a loss of students from other countries coming to England (Greenway, 2012). It appears, however, that this was not the case. No exodus of students going out of England was reported and the number of students coming to England from the EU and from outside the EU did not go down, quite the contrary (Higher Education Statistics Agency 2014). One possible explanation for the fact that the anticipated reaction (higher outgoing and lower incoming student flows) has not happened could be that it is simply too early to see the effects of these measures. Another explanation, however, is that there are other factors that matter in this case, which are more important than tuition fees or compensate their expected negative effects. One such factor is the easily accessible loan system (for all EU, including UK, students). Under this system, domestic and international EU students can receive almost automatically a loan covering their tuition fee, which they will repay after graduation (if at all, for some of them) at a variable rate contingent upon the level of their income. In other words, students do not feel directly and immediately the burden of the higher tuition costs, and they may not have clear representation about how this would affect their financial situation in the future, after graduation. For non-EU students, it appears that despite a higher cost, getting a higher education diploma in the UK remains attractive, for the diploma itself, but also for other reasons, such as the possibility to remain and work in England (or the UK) after graduation.

This example is in a way about how anticipated effects on internationalisation of decisions on funding strategies and instruments have not materialized (effects that could have happened, but have not happened, at least as yet). It does show however, the relevance of looking at funding strategies that are not introduced specifically in relation to internationalization.


This exploratory paper brings up a seemingly obvious and yet complex and not sufficiently analysed aspect of the internationalisation phenomenon, namely funding. It argues that despite complexities, it is possible to study internationalisation from a novel perspective, with funding-related questions at the core.

The article outlines a preliminary conceptual framework of how such a study could be structured and identifies five key factors for funding of internationalisation. The proposed factors are:

• Sources of funding—Who funds internationalisation?

• Types of activities funded—What gets funding?

• Geographic scope of funding—Where is the funding going?

• Funding instruments—How is it funded?

• Funding strategies—What strategies are funding it?

The claim that internationalisation can be studied in a novel and productive manner (by identifying patterns of funding in this area that consider a small number of identifiable factors or parameters) appears to be at least partly supported by the arguments, data, and analyses provided in the paper, building on the proposed new conceptual framework. Significant more work is needed to further develop this approach and to put its intuitions and conjectures to test. It appears however, that this is a very interesting avenue for future research in the area of internationalisation.

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