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International Education Strategy and Marketing

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This News and Views page is my Blog.

I use it to:

  • View from Prague Congress Centre - EAIE 2014share tips and advice on internationalisation approaches
  • highlight training, conferences or events that I am involved with
  • link to helpful or interesting news items, reports or other resources
  • comment on topics relevant to those working in international education

This page shows the ten most recent blog articles. A complete list of all articles since the blog started in May 2014 can be found on the Blog Archive page.


Vicky Lewis Consulting Blog


Time to be brave

Posted on 7 May 2021 at 14:40 by Vicky Lewis

Building a distinctive strategy

Time to be braveToday’s blog outlines why now is the time for a new approach to HEI strategies for global engagement. It then explores underlying drivers and opportunities for differentiation. It draws on Chapters 5 and 6 of my new report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).

As we emerge from the pandemic and deliberate over our future strategies for global engagement, it’s clear that these strategies must fulfil multiple purposes. They need to make a positive impact across different aspects of institutional mission; and to define a valued and distinctive position for the university within a changed global higher education landscape. At the same time, they have a role to play in aiding their institution's post-pandemic recovery and building financial sustainability.

So, how can we ensure they are fit for purpose? How can we avoid retreating into strategies that are entirely commercially driven, or embracing lofty ideological aspirations that are undeliverable, or developing Janus-faced strategies that say one thing and measure another?

I have noticed, over the years, that the forward-looking ideas and new opportunities which excite academics and practitioners when discussed in sector conferences, opinion pieces and working papers often get diluted (or dropped altogether) when institutional strategies are developed. Some may be picked up, but this is generally as evolutions or adaptations of existing activities, rather than in their more radical, raw and, perhaps, risky form. While it may be inevitable that written strategies reflect a degree of caution, perhaps now is the time to embrace some of the more far-reaching changes that could take an institution’s global engagement in new and distinctive directions.

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Avoiding the strategy traps

Posted on 5 May 2021 at 07:49 by Vicky Lewis

Lessons for the future

Strategy trapsToday’s blog focuses on some of the lessons that can be learned from an analysis of the global dimension within UK HEI strategic plans. It draws on Chapter 4 of my new report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?. (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).

The feedback I’ve received so far on my report suggests that quite a lot of UK HEIs are reviewing their internationalisation / global engagement strategies at the current time. It feels as if the country is starting to emerge from the worst of the pandemic and there is a little more bandwidth to focus on longer term plans.

Wherever institutions are in their strategic planning cycle, it is clear that they are having to invest in some serious strategic thinking, taking into consideration the radically altered external context and changing patterns of stakeholder demand and expectations.

My analysis of the HEI strategic plans current in late 2020 reveals certain common weak spots which may reduce effectiveness so, in the rest of this blog, I suggest ways in which these ‘traps’ can be avoided.

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Global engagement in UK HEI strategic plans

Posted on 29 Apr 2021 at 16:39 by Vicky Lewis

What's the picture?

GSR Cover

This blog builds on two pieces that I posted back in November / December 2020 on The UK Strategic Plan Landscape and on International KPIs, which shared emerging findings from my research into the profile of the global dimension across UK universities’ current strategic plans.

This topic developed into Chapter 3 of my new report (UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink?) which covers the current articulation of global engagement strategy by UK higher education institutions (HEIs). (There’s an overview of all the sections and Chapters in the report here).

As I wrote in my November blog, different UK HEIs place different emphasis on global engagement / internationalisation within their strategic plans. For some it is peripheral, for others fully embedded. But, across the sector as a whole, what it its profile?   

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The pandemic as a catalyst for reprioritisation

Posted on 27 Apr 2021 at 12:12 by Vicky Lewis

The context for my new report

GSR Cover

In my last blog, I provided an overview of how my new report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink? – came to be; and outlined the sections and chapters included within it.

Part One of the report includes a chapter (Chapter 2) entitled ‘The pandemic as a catalyst for reprioritisation’, which argues that the structural break represented by Covid-19 makes now the right time to reconsider our strategies for internationalisation and global engagement.

This blog dips into some of the points raised in Chapter 2.

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New Global Strategies report

Posted on 25 Apr 2021 at 14:26 by Vicky Lewis

How it came to be

GSR Cover

It’s a while since I posted a blog. The research project that I mentioned in my November and December blogs grew into something much larger than I anticipated and I have been busy working on that.

Given my long-standing fascination with the evolution of HEI international strategies, particularly within the UK context, I started out thinking it would be interesting to take the temperature of the sector in late 2020 and see which aspects of global engagement were being prioritised in university strategies.

I enjoyed building a picture of the state of internationalisation and global engagement within UK universities. It was noticeable that the older, still current strategies (published back in 2013 and 2014) tend to use the terms ‘international’ and ‘internationalisation’, whereas the more recent ones are more likely to use the term ‘global’. Beyond terminology, there were changes in content which demonstrate how strategies are very much products of the global and national context at the time they are developed.

Having completed this research, it struck me that the really interesting question is what the next, post-pandemic generation of international strategies will look like; and how they may differ from those that came before them.

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International KPIs

Posted on 9 Dec 2020 at 11:26 by Vicky Lewis

A question of alignment

AlignmentThose who read last month’s blog will know that I am working on a research project which explores the profile of the international / global dimension in institutional strategic plans across the UK Higher Education sector; and that, rather than waiting until I’ve finished, I’m going to share emerging observations as I go (with the caveat that some of the details may change as I get further through the project).

Today’s blog highlights some issues to be explored in more depth at a session that Janet Ilieva and I will be delivering at the British Council’s International Education Virtual Festival on Thursday 21 January 2021. The theme of the Festival is ‘Sustainable Futures for International Education’ and it runs from Monday to Thursday of that week (I think our session is in the final slot).

Our presentation will first draw on my research to explore the relationship between the rhetoric in strategic plans and the international KPIs used to measure progress. We’ll then use Janet’s Education Insight Global Engagement Index (GEI) to investigate what actual performance against a range of indicators looks like at sector level.

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The UK HEI Strategic Plan Landscape

Posted on 10 Nov 2020 at 15:44 by Vicky Lewis

How prominent is the global dimension?

Banff National Park

I am currently working on a research project which explores the profile of the international / global dimension in institutional strategic plans right across the UK Higher Education sector. Rather than waiting until I’ve finished analysing everything, I’m going to share emerging observations as I go (with the caveat that my thinking may change as I get further through the project).

Today’s blog provides an overview of the UK HEI strategic plan landscape and makes some observations about institutions’ different approaches to weaving in an international dimension.

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Global Engagement and Sustainability

Posted on 8 Oct 2020 at 17:40 by Vicky Lewis

Highlights from The PIE Live

The PIE LiveI very much enjoyed The PIE Live virtual summit this week. Although it was a shame not to be able to meet colleagues face-to-face, the platform gave as close to a ‘normal’ conference experience as is possible in a virtual format. I can certainly see this becoming a much more frequently adopted approach to conferences than all the flying around the world we used to do. Which brings me to my two highlights of the conference: the Sustainability Panel and the Global Engagement Index Q&A huddle.   

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The Changing Face of the International Office

Posted on 7 Aug 2020 at 11:06 by Vicky Lewis

From the turn of the century to the 2020s

The changing face of the International OfficeIt was exactly twenty years ago, in summer 2000, that I was appointed to set up a university International Office from scratch.

I went from being Deputy Director of a (for that time) reasonably sized International Office in Scotland to inaugural Head of an as yet non-existent International Office on the south coast of England.

It was a wonderful opportunity. When I arrived, one member of staff in External Relations was responsible for ‘everything international’ – from student recruitment to Erasmus exchange coordination to international student pastoral support and advice. She valiantly tried to corral the efforts of a handful of academic staff who would travel the world attending recruitment exhibitions and blithely signing MoUs or agent contracts. There was minimal coordination or communication beyond their own School.

International Office staff of that era from other institutions (you know who you are) may recall the frustration of finding that two separate (and often visually quite different) exhibition booths had been set up by different Schools / Faculties at the same recruitment event; or that separate visits to a potential partner institution had taken place in quick succession. 

Before I arrived, a consultant’s report had identified the opportunities and cost savings that would be derived from having greater coordination and a clear strategic focus. I was therefore in the fortunate position of being given carte blanche to define the scope of the new International Office and to devise new policies and approaches as needed.

I was backed up by top management all the way as we developed from a one-person operation to a comprehensive International Office with specialist staff covering international student recruitment, admissions, student experience, exchanges, outbound mobility, partnerships, pathway programmes, logistics and administration. Because I sat on the University Management Team, we were able to engage with other areas of university operations too – from marketing to the curriculum.

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Graduate outcomes and employability

Posted on 24 Jun 2020 at 10:34 by Vicky Lewis

At the heart of international strategy

The Summer 2020 edition of the EAIE’s Forum magazine focuses on Employability for the 21st Century. Among a EAIE Forum Summer 2020 - Employabilitywealth of fascinating articles is one by Louise Nicol (Asia Careers Group) and me: What Happens After Graduation? (pdf download)

Our piece starts by observing that, ‘whether graduates seek work in the host country or the sending country, it’s in the best interest of both national governments and individual institutions to facilitate international students’ transition into the workforce and accurately track employment trends’.

Australian and UK governments have both stressed the importance of graduate outcomes. At the same time, research shows that career impact is a key factor for international students when choosing their future university.

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