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Global Campus

Defining internationalization

Welcome to Global Campus, a new series that will provide a space to discuss, share and explore best practices in internationalization at Canadian postsecondary institutions.


Internationalization has been described as: “the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education” (Knight, 2004, p. 11). This widely used definition provides a starting point in the examination of internationalization at higher education institutions (HEIs), because it is broad enough to incorporate the various dimensions of internationalization that are occurring at institutions. Building upon the definition provided by Dr. Knight ande John K. Hudzik (2011) promoted the idea of comprehensive internationalization as “a commitment, confirmed through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research and service missions of higher education” (p. 6). Dr. Hudzik offers a call to action of all aspects of HEIs to implement the goals outlined in strategic internationalization plans, focusing on aspects sometimes overlooked in the discussions around internationalization. These include, internationalization of the curriculum, development of intercultural competencies for faculty/staff/students and providing support for internationalization activities.

The challenge with the term internationalization is the openness of multiple interpretations that are influenced by the context, stakeholders involved and evolution of the parameters and its understanding. Internationalization activities, faculty and student exchanges, research agreements, international student enrolments and international rankings have become increasingly important for many HEIs across the globe, including Canada. Internationalization has many dimensions: international partnerships, research funding, rankings and academic exchange programs. For many countries, including Canada, one of the key aspects has been increasing international student enrolments.

In the Canadian context, more than 95 percent of universities report that their strategic or long-term planning documents make or will make explicit reference to internationalization and/or global engagement (Universities Canada, 2014). Of the responding institutions, 82 percent report that internationalization was one of the top priorities, indicating that internationalization strategies are an important aspect of Canadian HEIs strategic plans (Universities Canada, 2014). In addition, since 2008, the Canadian government has implemented several policy changes to make studying in Canada more attractive for international students, including the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program.

Closely related to the successful implementation of internationalization initiatives is the degree of interconnectivity of government policies, bureaucratic processes and institutional programs. Internationalization plans have been launched across the country, including Canada’s International Education Strategy, provincial international education strategies and individual institutional plans, yet the impact of the interconnected nature of these different aspects of internationalization require further and ongoing examination.

The focus of Global Campus will be to help senior administrators, staff, and faculty at universities, colleges and polytechnics support international students, implement inclusive programming for international and diverse cohorts of students and promote internationalization strategies as identified by Canadian institutions. The articles will be written by and for postsecondary staff, faculty and senior administrators to build capacity to support undergraduate and graduate international students. Topics may include, but are not limited to, strategies for advising international students, developing internationalization plans, creating inclusive programming, creating safe, inclusive spaces in the classroom, as well as supporting international students’ career and professional development in Canada.

This column is coordinated through the Internationalization of Student Affairs Community of Practice of the Canadian Association of College & University Student Services (CACUSS), along with support from an editorial committee, composed of student affairs practitioners who support international students in various capacities. The 2021 editorial committee members are: Catherine Wilde (CBIE), Connie Grove (MHC), Eunjung Riauka (Algoma), Jenny Lee Northey (Queen’s), Philipp Reichert (UBC Okanagan), Shannon Coyne (CUE), Stacy Sathaseevan (Laurentian) and Wincy Li (Ryerson).

If you are interested in writing for Global Campus, indicate your interest here to be notified when the next round of call for submissions opens. We look forward to publishing the first article official article in February!

This column is coordinated through the Internationalization of Student Affairs Community of Practice of the Canadian Association of College & University Student Services (CACUSS). For comments or questions please contact [email protected].
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