Deconstructing the practice of internationalisation : from a policy position to a way of being
The title frames an initial piece of research forming one aspect of the writer’s broader research examining and evaluating internationalisation strategy discourses in UK Higher Education Institutions. For this particular study I conducted a series of thematic qualitative interviews with a sample of senior managers within a post-1992 university to explore the different ways in which they articulated their views on the importance of internationalisation of higher education; the meanings they ascribed to that concept in the context of the institution’s international strategy, and the extent to which they perceived that the written strategy had become institutionalised. In part this study is rooted in a wider interest in the way in which oral articulations of understanding of concepts are named, constructed and given meaning and the extent to which they are referenced to or informed by written articulations in the form of institutional strategy documentation; I am also interested in exploring the way in which the different discourses of institutional actors may reflect the sum of the taken-for-granted realities of their everyday lives (Burgin, 1982). Thus the selection of senior managers for the study, whilst not allowing for an assessment of all the different discourses within the university, provides one important discourse from influential actors in higher education policy to be developed in later research which will take account of alternative and potentially competing discourses. Acknowledging the potential conflict between previously taken-for-granted discourses on internationalisation and alternative discourses will facilitate a re-evaluation and reappraisal of internationalisation in the light of these alternative discourses being named and given value and meaning. Throughout this research a key concern has been the extent to which internationalisation is viewed by senior managers as having become institutionalised within university culture and the study utilises, in part, Levine’s innovation theory as a theoretical framework in this regard. Levine was one of the first researchers to tackle the question of how Universities innovate and developed and tested a model to describe the success or failure of an innovation in universities. The application of Levine’s innovation theory to the process of internationalisation will provide an insight into the factors that define whether or not internationalisation strategies and efforts result in a sustainable and enduring change in higher education institutions by satisfying the last stage and, for Levine, the most important stage of innovation: institutionalisation.