Edition 181 - May 2016

British Council study identifies global-top policy environments for internationalisation

The British Council’s newest study ‘The Shape of Global Higher Education’, launched at the annual summit in Cape Town this month, provides the first comparative framework for evaluating the varying strengths and weaknesses of different countries’ policy environments, that shape higher education and internationalization.

The report examines the policy and regulatory arenas of 26 counties, including USA, Brazil, India, China and Russia, against 37 indicators probing for the conduciveness of respective national environments to internationalisation in higher education.  
The report serves as an evidence-based guide directed at policymakers, leaders and education professionals, towards enhancing universities’ internationalisation and partnering efforts - identifying those national environments most enabling to international collaboration, joint research and future economic growth. To provide a detailed picture, identifying  those countries best equipped by their governments to internationalise their higher education institutions and prosper in the future, three areas shaping such conducive environments were identified: Openness, Quality Assurance and Recognition, Access and Sustainability

Key findings include:

  • In the selection of analysed countries, “Germany and Malaysia have the most balanced portfolio of national policies aimed at international higher education”- performing consistent across the three areas.
  • Student mobility is found as one of the best developed areas with a large number of countries concentrating financial support in this dimension.
  • Equitable access to education was well supported, a majority of countries having established student friendly visa policies. A reluctance to allow access to labour market opportunities still prevails, although few countries as Australia, Germany and recently Russia are leading by good example here.
  • Quality assurance emerged as a key area in need of significant improvement. Mainly countries as Australia, Malaysia, Germany and UK performing well in this dimension - owed to their long standing record in delivering transnational education programmes.
  • Universities were found to embrace a crucial role in driving/initiating internationalisation in higher education - regarding these processes as a critical resource for growing their research and teaching capacity. 
  • Research collaboration with an international scope, is increasingly becoming a policy preoccupation


The report is adjoined by the Global Gauge- an interactive tool allowing users and policy makers to pinpoint specific measures and compare the impact of government policies on international activities of universities  and explore the relative strengths of individual national systems.

The report concludes that the importance of international higher education is receiving increasing attention, and extending its presence on the global policy stage. This sets a positive sign about the readiness of countries to provide support for advancing their universities’ global positioning. Going forward, the ability of national environments to effectively support the internationalisation of their higher education institutions, is also shown to hinge on a growing need for greater synergies and coordination between national policies. By enabling a deeper understanding of national environments, that promise fruitful and mutually beneficial collaborations towards internationalisation, the study makes a valuable contribution to sustainably shaping the future of global higher education.

British Council – Report: The shape of Global Higher Education
British Council – Press release 

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