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The State of Campus Internationalization

Survey finds progress in comprehensive internationalization efforts. The top two priority activities for colleges are sending U.S. students abroad and recruiting international students.

June 14, 2017
 
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New results from a survey on the state of internationalization at U.S. colleges conducted every five years paint a picture of institutional priorities and progress.

More than 1,100 American colleges and universities responded to the survey, which was conducted in 2016, for a response rate of 39.5 percent. The survey by the American Council on Education’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement asked institutions about a broad array of indicators of “comprehensive internationalization,” including indicators that relate to the flow of American students abroad and of international students to the U.S., administrative structures and staffing, incentives for faculty involvement, international partnerships, and the curriculum. Key findings of the “Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses” report include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of responding institutions (72 percent) said that internationalization had accelerated in recent years on their campuses, compared to 64 percent in the most recent iteration of the survey, in 2011. The top three reasons cited for internationalization were “improving student preparedness for a global era,” “diversifying students, faculty and staff at the home campus,” and “becoming more attractive to prospective students at home and overseas.” Revenue generation was reason No. 4.
  • The top two priority activities for internationalization both relate to student mobility -- increasing study abroad for American students and recruiting international students. Partnerships, internationalizing the curriculum and co-curriculum, and faculty development round out the list of top five priority activities.
  • About half of institutions refer to internationalization or related activities in their mission statements (49 percent) or list them among the top five priorities in their strategic plans (47 percent).
  • Presidents are perceived as the primary catalysts for internationalization on campuses, followed by senior international officers. More than half of institutions (58 percent) reported that a single office leads internationalization activities on campus, an increase of 22 percentage points compared to 2011. The report says that internationalization is “increasingly an administrative-intensive endeavor, coordinated by a single office and/or a senior international officer.”
  • More than 70 percent of institutions said internal funding for internationalization has increased or stayed stable over the past three years. Twenty-one percent of institutions have a formal strategy and/or have launched a dedicated fund-raising campaign to support internationalization activities.
  • On recruitment of international students, nearly half (48 percent) of colleges have an international recruiting plan in place, and an increasing number are funding travel by international recruitment officers (44 percent for undergraduate recruitment and 23 percent for graduate recruitment). The proportion of institutions that reported offering scholarships or other financial aid to international undergraduate students has increased by 11 percentage points compared to 2011, to 49 percent.
  • The proportion of institutions hiring overseas recruitment agents -- controversial due to concerns about the practice of paying recruiters per-capita commissions, which is barred by law when it comes to U.S. students -- has nearly tripled. Thirty percent of institutions reported using recruitment agents at the undergraduate level, compared to 11 percent in 2011, while 15 percent reported they use recruitment agents at the graduate level, compared to 6 percent in 2011.
  • As for international student support, 60 percent of institutions said they offer individualized academic support for international students -- up from 57 percent in 2011 but down from 70 percent in 2006. Fifty-seven percent of institutions said they offered an English as a second language support program for matriculated international students. As for other supports, 63 percent said they offer an orientation for international students to the U.S. and the local community, 69 percent said they offer an orientation to the institution and/or the American classroom, 57 percent provide assistance in finding housing, 22 percent have an institutional advisory committee for international students, 13 percent offer international alumni services or chapters, 12 percent provide support services for dependents of international students, and 22 percent offer a host family program for international students.
  • The survey also asked colleges about whether they had pre-matriculation programs in place for international students, either intensive English programs or pathway programs that combine English as a second language and credit-bearing academic course work. About half of respondents (49 percent) said they either are operating, are developing or are considering developing an intensive English program, while 32 percent said the same for pathway programs.
  • Nearly three-quarters of institutions -- 72 percent -- said the number of their students studying abroad has increased or stayed stable over the past three years, while just 7 percent reported a decrease. However, when asked about study abroad participation, 22 percent of institutions chose “not applicable.” The percentages of respondents choosing “not applicable” were even higher in response to queries about changes in student participation in international internships (48 percent), service opportunities abroad (43 percent) and international research (54 percent) -- “indicating,” the report concludes, “that a substantial proportion of U.S. students do not have access to these types of opportunities.”
  • Just over half (51 percent) of institutions said they provide institutional funds for study abroad scholarships.
  • As far as the curriculum goes, 64 percent of institutions have articulated international or global learning-related outcomes for all students, 49 percent reported that their general education requirements include an international or global component and 46 percent reported that they have a foreign language requirement. Of these, 17 percent said they have a foreign language requirement for all students, while 29 percent said they have one for some students. The report notes that this is the first time since the first version of the survey in 2001 that it has recorded an increase -- albeit a modest one -- in foreign language requirements. The report also cites data from the Modern Language Association’s survey of foreign language enrollments at American colleges, the most recent version of which reported a 6.7 percent decline in all enrollments in foreign languages between 2009 and 2013.
  • The survey also asked about policies and practices for faculty as they relate to internationalization. Almost half (47 percent) of institutions reported “occasionally” or “frequently” giving preference to faculty candidates with international background, experience or interests when hiring in fields that “are not explicitly international/global,” up from 40 percent in 2011. Ten percent of institutions specify that they consider international work or experience in promotion and tenure decisions, up from 8 percent in 2011.
  • The “Mapping” report also finds that “internationalization-related professional development opportunities are generally more available to faculty than in 2011.” For example, 64 percent of responding institutions said they provided funding for faculty leading students on study abroad programs, 59 percent for travel to conferences and meetings abroad, and 40 percent for studying or conducting research abroad. Fewer than 30 percent of colleges offered on-campus professional development workshops on subjects like internationalizing the curriculum (26 percent), teaching international students (28 percent) or using technology to enhance a course's international dimension (19 percent).
  • More than half (56 percent) of institutions reported that they provide funding for administrative staff who work outside an international programs office to participate in workshops or other professional development activities on campus related to internationalization. Compared to 2011, a larger number of institutions also offer funding for staff to participate in professional development opportunities abroad.
  • In regard to partnerships with international institutions, nearly half of responding institutions said they have begun developing or have expanded their international partnerships over the prior three years, but the report also notes that nearly a quarter of all institutions -- and 44 percent of associate-level institutions -- do not maintain any international partnerships. Five percent of institutions have moved toward fewer partnerships.
  • Collaborative degree programs with foreign institutions are growing but remain relatively uncommon. Sixteen percent reported offering dual/double degree programs with a foreign university (in which both institutions confer degrees), up from 10 percent in 2011, while the percentage reporting that they offer joint degree programs (in which students receive a single credential endorsed by both institutions) was flat at 8 percent.
  • Five percent of institutions reported that they offer full degree programs overseas delivered only or largely via face-to-face instruction, 9 percent offer programs “entirely or largely through technology” (such as online), while 5 percent said they deliver programs using a combination of face-to-face instruction and technology.
  • In regards to overseas outposts, 4 percent of institutions said they have an international branch campus, 7 percent an overseas administrative office, 5 percent a study abroad center for U.S. students, 5 percent a teaching site for non-U.S. students, and 2 percent an overseas research center.

“We are making progress,” said Robin Matross Helms, the lead author of the report and director of ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement. “Institutions are optimistic about their progress, and this is something that institutions are working towards.”

At the same time, she drew attention to what the report describes as the external focus of many internationalization efforts. “A lot of what institutions are thinking of for internationalization is summarized in that priority list. The top priority is education abroad, No. 2 is international students, and No. 3 is establishing partnerships abroad. It’s only at No. 4 and 5 that we come to the curriculum and to faculty development and to what’s really happening on campus.”

“I think we still are thinking of internationalization often as an outward-facing endeavor,” Helms said. “We need to make sure that we’re giving adequate attention to what’s happening on campus as well.”

In regard to faculty members, Helms continued, “As we look at the faculty data as compared to indicators in other areas, the progress line just is not as steep. We need to be paying attention to making sure that faculty are engaged in and central to internationalization efforts.”

The 1,164 total responses to the survey include 203 responses from doctoral institutions, 352 from master’s institutions, 267 from baccalaureate institutions, 246 from associate institutions and 96 from special focus institutions. Researchers weighed the data in an attempt to mirror the distribution of institution types nationally.

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