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Wider inclusion in the internationalisation of higher education

On 21 February 2019, ACA addressed, together with Brussels-based stakeholder organisations, ACA members, higher education institutions and EU policy-makers, the need of widening inclusion in international higher education activities in general, and in the Erasmus 2021-2027 programme, in particular. Increasing inclusion becomes an ever-growing necessity in higher education, given the persistent shortcomings in widening access to (higher) education for specific groups that remain underrepresented, as well as given the increasing diversity of the European population, due to a variety of factors. The discussions were based on a draft inspirational paper by ACA on this topic and took place in the framework of a half-day event – Internationalisation for all? Wider inclusion in the internationalisation of higher education – jointly organised by ACA, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (Diku) and Flanders Knowledge Area (FKA) – all ACA member organisations. 

The expert speakers and panellists underlined a number of key messages, namely:

  • that widening inclusion requires ‘thinking out of the box’ and viewing diversity as ‘normal’;
  • that a broad approach to inclusion is necessary, guided by the concept of intersectionality, whereby various underrepresented groups are addressed (as well as students that are unable or uninterested to go abroad), starting from their ‘access needs’, and while avoiding stigmatisation;
  • that solutions should be designed together with the target groups, and not on behalf of them;
  • that linking internationalisation at home and internationalisation abroad activities (including, but also going beyond, mobility) is key for a truly inclusive approach; 
  • that collaboration of various groups of stakeholders and actors is needed; and 
  • that, importantly, more good practices should be collected and shared.

Several examples of good practices were presented
during the event by ACA member organisations and representatives of higher education institutions:

  • FKA – on Flemish policies and support measures for inclusive international student mobility (with contributions from SIHO - Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education); 
  • DAAD – on a study abroad campaign for reaching out the first time academics; 
  • EDUFI – on a Finnish, national-level project addressing equity in internationalisation;
  • University of Antwerp – on the use of Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL); and, 
  • Metropolia University of Applied Sciences – on virtual mobility in technical fields as a tool to diversify educational offering at home and to provide an international experience.

The programme also featured a keynote speech by Ágnes Sarolta Fazekas, of Eötvös Loránd Science University and Chairperson of the Access & Diversity Expert Community of the EAIE, a view from the students’ side, via João Pinto, President of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). In the closing keynote, Vanessa Debiais-Sainton of DG EAC outlined some of the European Commission’s thinking on widening diversity in the next generation of EU programmes, via actions like: working on an Inclusion strategy, with clearly-defined target groups, revising the Erasmus+ Charter for Higher Education (2.0), revising the mobility grants, working to enable flexible mobility formats (combining physical mobility with virtual collaboration) and ensuring automatic mutual recognition.

Based on the valuable insights brought about by the event, ACA will revise its draft inspirational paper, which will be launched – in its final form – in mid-March 2019.