Internationalisation in Scottish higher education: educators' perspectives on constructing the internationalised university

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Higher education (HE) sits within the area of post-compulsory education and can therefore be understood as a field of adult learning. The increasing importance of internationalisation as a feature of HE brings greater opportunities for adults studying and researching in HE to develop cross-cultural and cross-border perspectives to issues facing communities both locally and globally, and in so doing to contribute to sustainable development goals. The phenomenon of ‘internationalisation’ in HE is globally accepted and universities in Scotland are no exception. Regardless of the global application of internationalisation in HE, there is lack of clarity in defining the concept, which is constructed differently in the literature, in practice and in HE institutions in different countries. Therefore it may be that Scottish HE also constructs internationalisation in a particular way. There is a gap in the literature on studying educators’ perspectives of this phenomenon and few, if any, studies in Scottish HE. This paper focuses on my current doctoral research, which investigates educators’ perspectives of internationalisation in Scottish higher education. In focussing on educators’ perspectives, the paper discusses the definitions of internationalisation, the rationale behind universities’ moves toward internationalisation, and some challenges and issues faced by the educators. The aim is to explore constructions of internationalisation within institutional, national, and cultural contexts, and to identify if there is, for Scottish HE educators, a particularly Scottish form of internationalisation.
This qualitative research uses Beck’s ‘Cosmopolitanism’ to explore the research questions. Three universities in Scotland were selected for the study, based on different geographical locations, publication of internationalisation strategies presented on their websites, and their category. Questionnaires and interviews are used to gather data. The research so far has collected data from the questionnaires, and this initial data will be discussed in this paper. Further data will be collected from in-depth interviews. This data will then be analysed through a lens of Cosmopolitanism to identify how educators conceptualise internationalisation, and if that conceptualisation is a ‘Scottish’ one.

Initial results suggest that the concept of ‘internationalisation’ is not fully understood by the respondents. A small majority of these educators’ responses were that the Scottish higher education institutions do not shape internationalisation differently to institutions elsewhere. Nevertheless, 41% stated that Scottish HE institutions do shape internationalisation differently. Similarly, the majority of educators asserted that having a Scottish perspective on internationalisation is not important but a substantial percentage said that it was in fact important. These initial findings suggest a need to investigate further to find out why these educators have responded in this way, and will be explored in greater depth in the interviews.

These initial findings suggest that there is a divergence of views about the concept of internationalisation, and about the impact of the cultural location of the institution. Exploring and analysing the data from these universities may help other universities in Scotland, and the HE sector more broadly, to expand and develop their own internationalisation strategies with relevance to their specific contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2018
Event10th BGL-ALC Conference : Education 2030 & Adult Learning: Global Perspectives and Local Communites - Bridges or Gaps? Agendas, praxis and research - Remisens Hotel Admiral Opatija, Opatija, Croatia
Duration: 7 Jun 201810 Jun 2018


Conference10th BGL-ALC Conference
Internet address


  • Internationalisation
  • Higher Education
  • Educators' Perspectives
  • Scottish Universities
  • Cosmopolitanism


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