Policy Framework Creates Pathways for Comprehensive Internationalisation at Universities
On 6 November 2020, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology published the Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa that provides a concise roadmap for Higher Education Institutions to engage in comprehensive internationalisation.
The drafting of the Policy Framework began in 2015 and it is informed by several key policy documents, and extensive and intensive engagement with internal and external stakeholders, as well as experts in the field. The much anticipated national policy has been hailed by international education specialists and practitioners as creating the impetus to enhance internationalisation in this sector. It is also timely in the current context of international Higher Education, which has been acutely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, troubling traditional notions of internationalisation.
To some extent, the national policy levels the playing field for South African Higher Education Institutions in terms of “how” they should internationalise. However, each institution is required to develop its own internationalisation policy/strategy that embraces the broad principles of the framework. As such, the Policy Framework provides guiding principles on student mobility, forging of international partnerships, international research collaborations that enhance teaching, learning, research and community engagement and the offering of joint programmes and degrees. It also has relevance for internationalisation of the curriculum that enhances the scope of internationalisation at home; activities that would traditionally remain the privilege of a minority of students.
However, the policy is clear that internationalisation of the curriculum should not impede curriculum transformation imperatives. In addition, it seeks to mitigate the risk of brain drain and the commercialisation of international education. The Policy Framework requires that institutional internationalisation policies/strategies have measurable indicators and targets for internationalisation, which need to be included in institutional Annual Performance Plans submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training. This implies that it will be incumbent upon institutions to set aside both fiscal and human resources to realise the goals of comprehensive internationalisation as mandated by the policy framework.
In this context, UKZN has been forward-thinking, as Goal 4 of the University’s Strategic Plan is Targeted Internationalisation. To some extent, the promulgation of the Policy Framework also advances UKZN’s vision to be the Premier University of African Scholarship as it places emphasis on intra-African collaboration and supporting the needs of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries in the sphere of global engagement. Furthermore, the Policy Framework provides a cornerstone for UKZN to finalise and roll out its internationalisation policy grounded within our own context whilst adhering to the parameters set out in the national framework. Looking ahead, I believe that the Policy Framework has paved a significant way forward for internationalisation of Higher Education, intersecting teaching, learning, research and community engagement to achieve a process of embedded internationalisation within our institutions.
Dr Tasmeera Singh is the Principal International Advisor, International Relations at UKZN and is a member of the Management Council of the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA).
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.