Rory Newcomb

The Meaning(s) of Internationalisation & Globalisation

Ask a number of students and academics how their university is engaging with internationalisation and you’ll probably get a bunch of different answers.

globe (photo by jorgencarling)

Alex Bols has written about the meaning(s) of internationalisation for universities. He brings up something he heard more than ten years’ ago:

“Just because a university has international students does not make it an international university.”

But what is globalisation? As Bols heard, globalisation goes far beyond geography. A good definition comes from a Guardian book, “Going Global: Key Questions for the 21st Century” by Michael Moynagh and Richard Worsley:

“We define globalisation as the world becoming more interdependent and integrated.” [p.1]

Moynagh and Worsley state that networks are multiplying, relationships are stretching, and human contact is intensifying.

The book was published in 2008. In the years since then, these three factors appear to hold true. Technology allows human connections to occur regardless of our location.

We have long been able to pick up a phone and call someone on the other side of the world. But the ease, casual nature, and low cost of contact is a much bigger driving force. For better or worse, our access to the world fits in our pocket, rests on our glasses, and may soon appear on a contact lens.

Back to Moynagh and Worsley:

“The important results is that spheres of life are emerging over and above geography. For part of their lives, people are beginning to inhabit a world that is not bound by territory.
“A world above the world is emerging, but people are still rooted in the world below. The interaction of the two is what counts.” [pp.2 & 4]

Be it a branch campus, an online course, or a virtual book-reading club, the possibilities are right before us and continuing to emerge. Welcome to the global digital tribe.

The buck doesn’t stop at connecting. Careful understanding of variables is necessary for the most effective engagement.

That’s not to say we have an easy time understanding these variables. If the meaning of terms like internationalisation and globalisation comes under much discussion and misunderstanding, there’s a long way to go before a collective confidence can be applied to communication. Indeed, communication on a local level can be enough to cause a headache.

No wonder Alex Bols feels that “internationalisation is a multi-faceted phenomenon”. We have always been diverse, but that diversity is ever more apparent. This is an opportunity to embrace and engage at a deeper level. As Bols states:

“To me, internationalisation evokes a near-infinite set of possibilities and opportunities for cross-pollination between people from different backgrounds.”

What do the terms internationalisation and globalisation mean to you?