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Towards ‘deep’ internationalisation – ACA Director Bernd Wächter’s impressions of Josef Mestenhauser’s latest masterpiece

Josef A. Mestenhauser. Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of Internationalizing Higher Education: Discovering Opportunities to Meet the Challenges. Published by the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance at the University of Minnesota, 2011.

Few, very few indeed, have influenced the theory and practice of internationalisation more profoundly than Josef A. Mestenhauser.  Over a period of more than six decades, the Czech-born Mestenhauser has set the agenda for ‘international education’. He transformed international affairs at the University of Minnesota, received numerous high distinctions and awards, was elected president of NAFSA and, in the recent past, acted as an honorary consul of the Czech Republic for the five Upper Midwest States. To his 120+ publications on international education, he has now added a new one, a fascinating and instructive read entitled “Reflections on the past, present and future of internationalizing higher education”. The 180-pages volume, which was published by the University of Minnesota, bears the evocative sub-title “Discovering opportunities to meet challenges”. 

The sub-title is indicative of the main points of Mestenhauser’s analysis. Internationalisation of higher education has developed more in the past 20 years than in the centuries before and has lost some of its marginality. But at the same time, it has become much more complex and needs to respond to the challenge of a fast-developing body of international knowledge. Thus, while we have made progress, we have also fallen further behind. To get out of the trap, Mestenhauser advocates what I (not he) would like to term ‘deep internationalisation’. He plausibly and intelligently argues that we need a new concept of internationalisation, which goes beyond mere branding and marketing, and which also overcomes the organisational dispersion of international tasks at higher education institutions. At the same time, it requires the inclusion of international knowledge into the teaching and learning in all disciplines. Administratively, Mestenhauser argues in favour of the creation of “super centres” for internationalisation, to overcome unhelpful divisions and to create a pool of expertise.

Mestenhauser‘s book is also an ode to the ‘international education professionals’, whose dedication he feels is not honoured in terms of recognition and pay. He deplores that their knowledge, ‘international knowledge’, is wrongly rated inferior to disciplinary and academic knowledge.  All of this is delivered with the grand man’s typical mix of rigorous analysis, near-encyclopaedic knowledge, great humility and charm. For the benefit of all of us, I sincerely hope that this major work is only one of many more to come. My wish might be granted, as apparently another monograph is already in the works.

by Bernd Wächter
Academic Cooperation Association

This publication is available in alternative formats upon request. Direct requests to the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance,  SHARE