Responsible Internationalisation

Universities have a responsibility to embrace the challenges, as well as the opportunities, entailed by international collaboration.

The specific theme of Responsible Internationalisation has been much discussed in recent years, for example in the 2020 report, Responsible internationalisation: Guidelines for reflection on international academic collaboration, produced by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) and a consortium of Swedish universities. The Magna Charta Universitatum (to which nine of the EUTOPIA partners are signatories) is an international framework that commits Higher Education Institutions to the principles of academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and universities’ local and global responsibilities.

The EUTOPIA Alliance’s collective stance on responsible internationalisation is captured in our International Partnership Charter [link]. The following article will present more specific examples of how EUTOPIA partners take a values-driven approach to global collaborations.

Selecting partners and addressing challenges
Cultural and linguistic diversity
Internationalisation at home

Selecting partners and addressing challenges

All the EUTOPIA partners use a broad range of criteria when forming new partnerships (see Partnership Frameworks). These selection frameworks often emphasise the need for common ground with regard to ethical priorities.

For example, the University of Ljubljana highlights the importance of using international partnerships to exchange good practice and experiences regarding EU policies on HE reform. They also target prospective partners who have an expressed and concerted interest in inclusion, social impact, and engagement with the European Green Deal. These values are manifested in UL’s partnership with the University of Rijeka (see Bilateral Partnerships).

UPF likewise places a strong emphasis on the need to partner with networks and institutions that are aligned with their values-driven projects, such as Planetary Wellbeing (a transdisciplinary initiative focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals) and EDvolució (which implements inclusive, innovative approaches to education). These projects foreground the impact universities can have on local and international challenges, a theme reflected in UPF’s collaborations with Johns Hopkins University (see Bilateral Partnerships) and regional networks with an international reach (see Multilateral Partnerships).

The University of Gothenburg, in its Vision 2021-2030: A University for the World, places a global commitment to Sustainable Development Goals at the centre of its future ambitions. The university actively promotes responsible internationalisation through value-based collaborations, hosting foreign researchers at risk, and implementing support structures for outgoing students and staff.

The principles of responsible internationalisation highlight the need for universities to address global challenges, and to enhance their response to these challenges through cross-institutional collaboration. University Development Cooperation is an important framework in this regard, as showcased in the VUB case study in Bilateral Partnerships. At the time of writing, the EUTOPIA partners are sharing information regarding their response to the Russia-Ukraine war, including the measures each university has put in place to support Ukrainian students, academics, and their families.

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Cultural and linguistic diversity

Engaging with a range of partners across different parts of the world, and avoiding Anglo- or Euro-centrism, are important facets of responsible internationalisation.

Kyungpook National University emphasises the importance of reciprocal and balanced partnerships. They prioritise HEIs that do not have a high number of Korean or Asian students (to promote interculturality), and are not native-English-speaking (so that English is used for communication, not as a power tool). They also note the danger of insularity in universities’ approach to international partnerships, both because this can result in ‘ivory towers’ that guard relationships and are not transparent, and because this leaves HEIs ill-equipped to deal with changing geo-political circumstances.

The EUTOPIA Alliance is mindful of the need to think beyond English-language-based partnerships and mobilities. Babeș-Bolyai University and the University of Ljubljana have illustrated how international partnerships can promote cultural and linguistic diversity in their case studies (see Bilateral Partnerships), and Ljubljana also pursue this agenda by leading EUTOPIA’s work with Western Balkans universities.

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Internationalisation at home

In 2020, when the pandemic prevented international travel, the EUTOPIA Alliance issued a Presidential Declaration on mobility, embracing the principle of free movement and the task of exploring ‘multiple modalities of mobility, including the virtual and digital’.

Fostering opportunities for ‘internationalisation at home’ has become a major priority for all EUTOPIA partners in recent years, and will remain an important area of activity going forward. This is not only because universities are pursuing innovative forms of education and research using digital tools, but also because, as UPF have noted, internationalisation at home opportunities are a means towards a more responsible (that is, more inclusive and sustainable) internationalisation.

The University of Warwick places a particular emphasis on this concept in the international pillar of its Excellence With Purpose strategy. The university offers extensive opportunities for language-learning, intercultural societies and events, and specific initiatives to enhance the experience of international students on campus. Students can take a free Intercultural Training Programme, designed to help them better understand, communicate, and build effective relationships with those from different cultural backgrounds. As the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft, has said: ‘Warwick is, and has been since its foundation, a European university… Brexit, and the current political climate in the UK, has not derailed our position as a European university; rather, it has made us more determined to strengthen and make clearer our existing commitment to European engagement, as a major part of our strategy and our identity.’ This ethos informs Warwick’s approach to internationalisation, abroad and at home.  

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