From student mobility to market success
Olson, Jennifer Rebecca
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Internationalization has become an important topic for higher education institutions in almost every country. Research cooperation, student and staff mobility and university partnerships are seen as vital to the success of students, researchers, and universities. Not surprisingly, policy-makers throughout the world attempt to increase the competitiveness of universities and national higher education systems in order to attract the best and brightest students. Germany and other non-English speaking countries have often been perceived as latecomers to the current higher education internationalization trends; yet the country’s universities and organizations have long engaged in international activities. Following World War II, student mobility was considered a public good that benefited society as a whole. In the last decade, however, the logic underlying internationalization efforts has changed significantly as seen in the shift of objectives within student mobility frameworks. The traditional orientation towards educational partnerships is gradually being overlaid with an economic rationale emphasizing market success. Through championing the ideals of competition and differentiation, stakeholders in the higher education landscape have focused on turning the country into a recognized entity in the global knowledge economy. The qualitative dissertation project focuses on the consequences of the changing logic of internationalization for actors within the landscape of German higher education. To successfully compete in attracting international students, universities and other organizations have (re-) developed structural incentives and initiatives, which effect university practices and processes. Having conducted over 40 interviews with actors in three German universities and two higher education organizations; and undertaken an in depth document analysis the research focuses on how these actors engage in reorganizing themselves to meet new global demands and compete for resources with increasingly strategic motivations. The interviews revealed that internationalization initiatives are serving various purposes, whether intended or not, which training actors to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to more market-centered or entrepreneurial goals. Actors respond to the new dynamics with a degree of ambivalence, but are nonetheless engaging in the market-making or academic capitalist initiatives.