Alvaro Romo, secretary general of the International Association of University Presidents, or IAUP presents the book Global Perspectives on Strategic International Partnerships due to be published in February 2016. This article is a short version of a chapter that will appear in a book, produced by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD. It was also the subject of Alvaro Romo’s speech at the semi-annual meeting of the IAUP held at Bond University, Queensland, Australia, in October 2015.
It is now virtually unavoidable for a university CEO to perform his or her leadership role at a higher education institution without confronting the various aspects, issues and challenges connected with the internationalisation of the institution.
There are a number of reasons why strategic partnerships are important and worth investing time, effort and resources.
First, the internationalisation of a university is no longer ‘optional’. It has practically become a parameter of quality sine qua non. A university president or CEO nowadays does not consider not doing it. One rather asks where the university stands in this internationalisation process.
Any modern university will be measured and evaluated or ranked – among other things – by the degree of internationalisation it has achieved and its success in terms of students, faculty members, researchers and staff participating in international programmes and benefiting from the experience in specific measurable ways.
Second, a good strategic partnership can improve an institution by, for example, offering students an opportunity to participate in significant experiences abroad, whether through traditional study abroad terms, or through more innovative programmes such as internships abroad, joint or double degree programmes.
But it is not only students and faculty that may benefit from a strategic partnership. Staff and other sectors of the university community can participate in very enriching experiences in the other country.
Judging from experience from the point of view of a university president or CEO, a good strategic plan must include the following 10 general steps:
Step 1: Develop a strategy.
Step 2: Establish a university mission with regard to internationalisation.
Step 3: Maintain financial and staff support at the level that is needed.
Step 4: Establish clear coordination at the institutional level.
Step 5: Define decision-making roles and responsibilities.
Step 6: Use technology.
Step 7: Establish an agenda to be followed by the office of the vice-president for international affairs (or similar role) and the central coordinating body on internationalisation.
Step 8: Establish a strong and sound structure for the management of international programmes.
Step 9: Periodic review.
Step 10: Examine the relationship between the university and the community.
University leaders should feel a clear responsibility in establishing strategic partnerships. They included the fact that any modern university needs to be internationalised, as this will be a factor in institutional quality ranking and evaluation.
Second, strategic partnerships, when based on a good plan, will involve and benefit all sectors of the university – students, faculty, researchers, and staff – and even the local community where the university is located.
As to how a university president should act and invest in worthy international strategic partnerships, setting up the strategic plan is paramount. But it should certainly be added that a wise university leader must also first reflect carefully and have a decisive role in determining who are the best strategic partner(s) for the institution and secondly in establishing direct close relationships with his or her counterparts.