How international are we? A study of the internal barriers to internationalisation of UK higher education

Kevin (BE) Thomas

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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As the landscape of UKHE undergoes yet another significant change, currently related to the funding of home students, the importance of a university’s international activities have been placed in a sharper focus. Although the direct economic impact of international student recruitment is of interest and importance, how institutions approach and organise themselves in relation to wider internationalisation is critical. This study has investigated in detail the internal barriers that exist to restrict or prevent that internationalisation process. A mixed methods approach, aligned with a realist ontology and pragmatist epistemology, has utilised a rigorous, sequential, three phase primary investigation. The earlier phases informing, although also allowing data to be transferred to other stages, the follow-on phases. An initial phase of content analysis of internationalisation strategies was utilised to identify the enablers to internationalisation and also to allow the formulation of a probability sampled questionnaire to staff involved with, and interested in, internationalisation. The phase two questionnaire results were then utilised to identify the barriers to internationalisation and to formulate detailed questions to be asked at a series of purposive sampled interviews, these interviews confirming the previously identified barriers. A series of internal barriers have been identified as follows; Resources; senior management support and leadership; staff interaction/engagement; use of a strategy and monitoring; complicated and over- bureaucratic procedures; internationally focused curriculum; internationalisation at home; staff and student mobility; communication and clarification. The degree of impact of these barriers will vary between institutions and suggestions have been made how to approach and deal with them. This study has therefore made a direct contribution to higher education practice but has also made a contribution to knowledge by utilising the sequential primary data gathering and closing the evident knowledge gap associated with the identification of the internal barriers to internationalisation of higher education in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
  • Harvey, Jackie, Supervisor
  • Vecsey, Mel, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2012


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