Spotlight on Internationalisation at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences

Spotlight on Internationalisation at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences

FIBAA Premium Seal Award Ceremony

On 13 June 2023, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences received the FIBAA’s Premium Quality Seal for its Master of Science, Master of Business Management. For the occasion, a ceremonial programme was put together to celebrate this milestone, where Mag. Diane Freiberger, the managing director of FIBAA, delivered a speech and handed over the certificate. I was asked to deliver an introductory speech and, since the internationality feature of the MBM programme received exceptional qualification, I have decided to centralise the theme and put the spotlight on internationalisation, to remind ourselves how important it is in the context of higher education and in the context of our globalised world. The next section of this article presents my introduction at the ceremony with minor edits – such is the advantage of writing over speaking. 

Spotlight on Internationalisation at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences

A spotlight on Internationalisation

Internationalisation is the aim and strength of Wittenborg, one could say it is the ‘air it breathes’. Today I am here to turn the spotlight on internationalisation. Some of you may think: why do we keep banging on about this topic? Isn’t it our work and reality? Walking into the classroom, seeing our students, working with our colleagues, teaching the curriculum and organising our events, internationalisation is everywhere you turn your head at Wittenborg. And we know, we know it’s one of our key values alongside diversity and ethics. Today, I actually want to focus on: what is internationalisation, why is internationalisation so important and why should we keep committing to it?

Firstly, what is internationalisation? And I would like to make a distinction between globalisation and internationalisation. According to the Online Oxford Dictionary, internationalisation is: ‘the act or process of bringing something under the control or protection of two or more nations’, while globalisation is ‘the fact that different cultures and economic systems around the world are becoming connected’. This distinction is important because it means that internationalisation is a deliberately chosen act or strategy that relates to individuals, firms and businesses, or in our case higher education, by which a higher degree of globalisation (as an end result) is being achieved. In international higher education, internationalisation has become a broad term, under which we understand as specified by the European Parliament: student exchanges (credit and degree mobility), academic and professional exchanges, learning collaborations, curriculum development, branch campuses, etc.  

To elaborate on the importance of internationalisation, I would like to take you first on a time-travel into the past, back to 1036 AD when St King Stephen I of Hungary in the letter of admonitions to his son, St Emeric (recorded in the Corpus Juris Hungarici), wrote “Make the strangers welcome in this land, let them keep their languages and customs, for weak and fragile is the realm which is based on a single language or on a single set of customs.” Isn’t this a stunning statement from the 11th century? This quote is fun for me to share because I am Hungarian and I wasn’t aware of this historic quote, until I came to study as an exchange student in the Netherlands and it was part of my textbook for Cross-Cultural Management. Through various encounters, team works and interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds, I came to be more and more critical about my own culture and see what are the blind spots, and how I could change my thinking and behaviour to interact and cooperate with other people. Internationalisation doesn’t just open one’s mind for other cultures, it makes us able to think critically, re-evaluate and reflect on our own.  

Let’s now turn our attention to internationalisation in higher education. Universities have always had an international dimension, the concept of universal knowledge. A lot of references to internationalisation go back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when student and faculty mobility took the form of university pilgrimage. The European Commission named its famous student and staff mobility programme after Erasmus, who was a university pilgrim in this time period. The international dimension in higher education and the way we refer to it today, really just emerged in its wide variety in the last two or three decades: student and staff exchange, capacity building programmes, project collaborations, but also virtual connections, digital learning or even Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), enabled by the latest technological developments.  

Thus has internationalisation become so important in higher education that Hudzik in 2011 defined the need for comprehensive internationalisation that involves the institutions as a whole and he sees it imperative to seek comprehensive internationalisation in our globalised world today in order to stay competitive, be agile and even to be resilient. Wittenborg has a strategic commitment to comprehensive internationalisation, as this is a vital element considering its core business, programmes and all its operations. It not only impacts the campus life at our school, but also its external frames of reference and commitments, collaborations, partnerships and research agenda, as per the definition by Hudzik (2014; 2011).  

What internationalisation brings about is open-mindedness, openness towards other cultures; it enables critical self-reflection and for a higher education institution it has become vital to open up possibilities of collaboration, enhance academic standards and quality, enabling us to solve problems on a higher level. 

And boy, we’ve got a lot of problems that can only be solved through international cooperations. Internationalisation enables us and future generations to co-operate, work together on solving world problems, pursue developmental goals like the UN SDGs, help us create a better world. As we say at Wittenborg: Better yourself, better our world! 

WUP 12/07/2023
by Kriszta Kaspers-Rostás
©WUAS Press