Comprehensive Internationalization Framework


Comprehensive internationalization, as defined by ACE, is a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs, and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected institutions.

Based on its work colleges and universities in the ACE Internationalization Laboratory and other institutions, ACE has identify six interconnected target areas that require attention and resources in order to achieve truly comprehensive internationalization. Together, these comprise the ACE Model for Comprehensive Internationalization:

​Articulated Institutional Commitment

Strategic planning involving key stakeholders articulates an institution’s commitment to internationalization and provides a roadmap for implementation. Formal assessment mechanisms reinforce this commitment by framing explicit goals and holding the institution accountable for accomplishing them.

  • Strategic planning. Internationalization is prioritized in mission statements and institution-wide strategic plans and through explicit internationalization plans.
  • Internationalization committee. A steering committee comprised of representatives from across the campus is designated to oversee implementation of internationalization initiatives.
  • Campus stakeholders. Focus groups, surveys and open discussions convey priorities, address concerns and gain buy-in by students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders.
  • Assessment. Following from articulated goals, progress and outcomes of internationalization are formally measured and assessed.

Administrative Leadership, Structure, and Staffing

The involvement of top leaders, and appropriate administrative and reporting structures, form an essential framework for implementing internationalization. 

  • Senior leadership. The president and CAO are committed to internationalization and are engaged in the process from the start.

  • International office. An office or offices are designated to coordinate campus-wide internationalization activities. The faculty or staff member primarily responsible for internationalization reports to the CAO or president.

Curriculum, Co-curriculum, and Learning Outcomes

As a core purpose of higher education, student learning is a critical element of internationalization. An internationalized curriculum and co-curriculum ensure that all students are exposed to international perspectives and build global competence.  Globally-focused student learning outcomes articulate specific knowledge and skills to be addressed in courses and programs.

  • General education requirements. Courses that focus on foreign language, regional studies and global issues are included in undergraduate general education requirements.
  • Internationalized courses in the disciplines. Courses within each major incorporate international perspectives and highlight global issues in the field.
  • Co-curriculum. Programs and activities address global issues, reinforce international elements of the curriculum, facilitate discussion and interaction among students of different backgrounds and support the integration and success of international students on campus.
  • Student learning outcomes. Internationally-focused competencies are included in campus-wide student learning outcome goals and assessments.
  • Technology. Technology is used in innovative ways to enhance global learning, e.g. through joint coursework and interactions with students and faculty abroad.

Faculty Policies and Practices

As the primary drivers of teaching and research, faculty play a pivotal role in campus internationalization. Institutional policies and support mechanisms ensure that faculty have opportunities to develop international competence and are able to maximize the impact of these experiences on student learning.

  • Tenure and promotion policies. Tenure codes state explicitly that international work and experience should be considered in tenure and promotion decisions.
  • Hiring guidelines. International background, experience and interests are among the criteria upon which faculty candidates are evaluated.
  • Faculty mobility. Faculty have opportunities to teach, conduct research and attend conferences abroad. Administrative and funding mechanisms support faculty participation in outside programs (e.g. Fulbright).
  • On-campus professional development. Workshops, seminars and other programs help faculty build international competence and incorporate international perspectives into their teaching. 

Student Mobility

Student mobility, which refers both to the outward flow of domestic students to other countries to engage in an education abroad experience and the inward flow of international students to study at U.S. campuses, is often a focus of internationalization efforts. Orientations, re-entry programs and other support structures and activities help facilitate student adjustment and maximize learning.

  • Credit transfer policies. Students can easily earn credit for study abroad through approved programs.
  • Financial aid and funding. Student financial aid is applied to approved study abroad programs, and resources are available to help students locate additional funding. Scholarships and other funding are available for international students.
  • Orientation and re-entry programs. Orientation and re-entry programs help students maximize learning during study abroad, and integrate knowledge gained into their overall program of study. Academic and cultural orientation sessions are provided to all incoming international students.
  • Ongoing support and programs for international students. Academic and social support structures and programs facilitate international students’ full integration into campus life.

Collaboration and Partnerships

​Successful collaborations and partnerships extend the reach and impact of internationalization activities.

Such relationships can provide international and cross-cultural experiences for students and faculty, enhance the curriculum, generate revenue, and raise the visibility of institutions at home and around the world.

  • Partnerships with institutions and organizations abroad. Connections take place at the faculty, unit, and/or institutional levels, and may originate “top down” or “bottom up.”  Appropriate procedures are in place to evaluate proposed partnerships and ensure legal compliance.

  • Community Collaborations. Organizations in the local community are tapped for cross-cultural expertise (e.g. among diaspora populations) and community members are invited to participate in internationalization activities on campus.

  • On-campus networks. The international office works collaboratively with an array of administrative and academic units on campus to promote activities, support students and faculty, and communicate internationalization successes.


 Internationalization Toolkit

Looking to jumpstart internationalization? No need to reinvent the wheel. Explore ACE's repository of resources for colleges and universities.

Visit the Toolkit

F​ind More on ACE Engage

Explore related resources on ACE Engage®​, ACE's peer-to-peer learning platform. ACE Engage includes access to a curated content library, microcourses, exclusive events, and more.

Comprehensive Internationalization: What, Why, and How

Fundamentals of Comprehensive Internationalization

Frequently Asked Questions About Education Agents

Internationalization on Campus Group

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