Managing the Complexities of Internationalisation: Balancing Academia with Tourism and Hospitality #018

From government policies to funding constraints, Brexit uncertainties to global competition, this blog article and podcast examine how British institutions balance academia with their roles as tourism operators and hospitality engines.

Managing the Complexities of Internationalisation: Balancing Academia with Tourism and Hospitality #018
Hong Kong International Airport

The internationalisation of Higher Education in the UK is arguably the life raft of a system, devoid of a captain, and somewhat lost at sea. Whilst it is a critical factor in the country's education landscape; in recent years, it has faced various challenges, including changes in government policies, funding constraints, and global uncertainties such as Brexit. As the UK's education system continues to evolve, it must adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining its position as a global leader in higher education.

One of the most prominent aspects of internationalisation in the UK is the growing number of international students. British universities have actively recruited students from around the world, attracted by the high-quality education, multicultural environment, and the global reputation of UK degrees. Alongside this UK universities promote partnerships and collaborations with institutions worldwide. These partnerships can encompass joint research projects, student exchange programs, and branch campuses (Transnational Education, TNE) in other countries to enhance the global reach and impact of UK higher education institutions.

Despite its importance, the internationalisation of higher education in the UK faces several challenges. The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union has brought uncertainty and complexity to academic and research collaborations with EU countries. Access to research funding, student mobility, and regulatory changes are areas of concern. In my experience of multiple Universities, the resulting decline on European Union students has generated real pressure on the financial position of some schools. Student fees from Home (UK) students haven’t changed in years leaving institutions with no option but to rely on tuition fees from international students. These changes / or lack of change in government policies regarding tuition fees and immigration can have a significant impact on universities' financial stability. The global higher education landscape is highly competitive. Other countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, are also actively recruiting and directly compete with the UK for international students and the fostering of global partnerships.

While internationalisation is essential, it also raises questions about diversity and inclusion. International students travel great distances at great expense; Universities must ensure that international students feel welcome and supported, addressing issues of cultural diversity and social integration. From a student perspective, academic stress emerges as a prominent theme highlighting the pressure students endure concerning their academic performance. Cultural and racial challenges also come to the forefront. Another prevalent theme centres on climate and environmental issues e.g. nobody told them about the British weather! On a more personal note, relationships and social life are never far from the mind of any student alongside food-related concerns as they realise that mothers home cooking is no longer accessible. These diverse themes collectively paint a frenzied picture of the challenges students navigate in their academic and personal lives.

All these different activities and challenges require a consistent and flexible approach to their management. Universities are no longer the bastions of knowledge, they are major tourism operators, they lead a hospitality engine and are a major export of the British economy. Something that requires a different skill set and approach from the field of academia envisaged by the likes of Kingsley Amis when he penned ‘Lucky Jim’.