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The debate on how to make existing internationalisation activities related to social engagement more systematic has gained momentum since 2019. The idea behind the Internationalisation in Higher Education for Society (IHES) project, is to try to provide an instrument to achieve this.
In the framework of the IHES project, ACA has conducted an extensive mapping of activities that intentionally seek to provide impactful benefit to the wider community. Such activities should also increase the involvement of the wider community (at home or abroad). They may bring the global to the local, or vice versa, as both are equally valuable. And they occur in any areas in which a HEI is active: education, research and service to society. IHES can use many kinds of activities and its actors can be any university group: academics, students or administrative and technical staff. Alongside the mapping survey, our partners from the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) have conducted two focus groups with representatives from civil society and regional authorities. Their inputs were crosschecked with the input received by HEIs and some valuable outcomes were identified.
The overarching conclusion is that there is still a lack of international dimension in many societal engagement activities, which is visible in the lower relevance of societal target groups abroad or involvement of international staff at HEIs. Internationalisation at Home can play a strong role here. We are also advocating for a stronger push towards IHES activities abroad, for example, foreign study. International target groups could also be identified through existing international HEI networks. Local civil society and regional representatives in partner university countries may lack international connectivity. Engaging further with them would be beneficial to everyone involved. Overall, the analysis showed that IHES has gained some traction in recent years and is on its way to becoming an idea that could lead to more projects like those covered in the mapping. Nevertheless, such projects are still a minority among internationalisation activities and the vast realm of social engagement. This report provides insights to: (i) help all current actors, (ii) inform about the next steps of the IHES project, (iii) support regional IHES laboratories in Catalonia (Spain) and Olomoucky Kraj (Czech Republic), (iv) shape the guidelines for practitioners, and (v) help develop an IHES model in the next phases of the project.
Next to the report, we have developed the Online Repository of IHES activities, where we are collecting inspirational examples to be showcased to other practitioners.
The full report is available here and you can read more about the project here.