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Campuses Report Internationalization Is Accelerating, but Progress Is Mixed

June 27, 2012


The majority of colleges and universities perceive that their efforts to internationalize have increased in recent years, but the data present a mixed picture, according to a new report from ACE.

Key findings in the 2012 edition of Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses focus on:

  • Curriculum: Slightly more than half the institutions said they have developed global learning outcomes for students, but less than a third report integrating courses on global trends and issues or specific countries or regions. Decreases in foreign language requirements continue.
  • Faculty: A majority of institutions say they consider international experience in the hiring process, but very few include that same consideration in promotion and tenure policies. Support for international travel to meetings and for research is falling.
  • Partnerships: While there has been an uptick among institutions in the creation of international partnerships, only slightly more than a quarter report collaborative activity and a minority of all institutions surveyed report partnerships with overseas entities. Fewer still have branch campuses.

The report, the third edition of Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses, examines colleges’ and universities’ global efforts across six critical areas based on ACE’s definition of comprehensive internationalization. The data come from survey responses from more than 1,000 higher education institutions across all sectors in late 2011. Information from 2006 and 2001 is also included.

“We are constantly reminded that in order to compete in the 21st century, the U.S. work force must be prepared to operate across borders,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “The results of this survey indicate that, although we still have a long way to go, some colleges and universities are taking strong action to develop opportunities for students that equip them to succeed in the new global environment.”

“Colleges and universities still recognize that global education is critical to their missions, even given the high-stakes budget pressures that they have experienced in past few years,” said Patti McGill Peterson, ACE presidential advisor for global initiatives. “The focus is laudable, but the survey sheds light on many areas in which we can improve. We hope this report will serve as a resource for campuses as they plan their next steps.”

Specific findings of the report indicate:

  • In 2011, 93 percent of doctoral institutions, 84 percent of master’s institutions, 78 percent of baccalaureate institutions, and approximately 50 percent of associate and special focus* institutions perceived that internationalization has accelerated on their campuses in the past three years.
  • At institutions reporting an accelerated focus on internationalization, funding for these efforts over the past five years has either increased (47 percent) or remained steady (27 percent).
  • Fifty-one percent of responding colleges’ and universities’ mission statements refer to international or global education, and 52 percent of institutions reported that internationalization is among the top five priorities in their strategic plans.
  • Twenty-eight percent of institutions require undergraduates to take courses featuring global trends and issues, a slight increase since 2006. But there has been an 8 percent decrease (to 29 percent) in the institutions that require undergraduates to take courses that primarily feature perspectives, issues or events from countries or areas outside the United States.
  • The percentage of institutions with an undergraduate foreign language requirement has steadily declined across all sectors. While a majority of doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions still have these requirements, only 20 percent of community colleges and 12 percent of special focus institutions do. Among institutions with a language requirement, most require only a year of study.
  • The percentage of institutions that factor in international experience, background and interests when hiring faculty jumped from 32 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2011.
  • Funding for faculty to travel to meetings and conferences and to study or conduct research abroad has declined. Forty-eight percent of institutions pay for international conference travel, down from 56 percent in 2006, and 31 percent fund research abroad, down from 39 percent five years ago.
  • Nine in 10 doctoral institutions give scholarships for study abroad, while approximately two-thirds of master’s and baccalaureate institutions and one quarter of associate and special focus institutions provide these opportunities. However, 42 percent of institutions reported no study abroad by their 2011 graduates.
  • Twenty-seven percent of institutions have some type of joint degree, dual/double-degree or certificate program with overseas partners.
  • Of the responding institutions, 43 operated a branch campus in 2010-11, and more than 20,000 students were enrolled at those sites.

The report was produced by ACE’s recently revamped Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement with ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis. It is available on ACE’s website.

*Special focus institutions are defined as institutions awarding baccalaureate or higher-level degrees where more than 75 percent of degrees are in a single field or set of related fields (excludes tribal colleges).

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