Key Guides

A Brief Guide to Internationalisation

What is Internationalisation?

Internationalisation is a term used broadly to encompass student and staff recruitment, leadership of international research and knowledge, and business development internationally, as well as the issues related to the student learning experience. Whilst these issues have their distinct implications for UK higher education providers, each is inherently concerned with the quality of learning and teaching for all students. These include:

  • international students studying in the UK – concerned with student and staff expectations, attitudes, and the appropriateness of institutional culture that fosters the success of all students it recruits.
  • students studying on UK programmes overseas – concerned with ensuring students have an equitable learning experience to those studying within the UK.
  • promoting a globalised learning experience for all students studying on UK programmes – concerned with the low uptake and accessibility of student mobility opportunities, as well as the Anglo-centric focus within the curriculum for a number of UK degree programmes.

Why is Internationalisation important?

Internationalisation is a key educational and political agenda. The sustainability of institutions in the UK is partly dependent upon them proactively engaging with globalisation, whether in terms of creating global partnerships and collaborations, or competing in the global market for students and research funding.

Commonly, an institutional response to these concerns focuses on the individual student, for example, promoting their integration and interaction within the UK or programme context, providing specific support and training for international students, and / or direct marketing to raise students’ awareness of international opportunities.

Emphasising the quality of learning and teaching, however, shifts the focus for change onto the institution rather than the individual student. It requires that the University attends to the provision of what is taught within the curriculum, pedagogical culture and approaches used, as well as the organisation of the learning environment and resources.

It also requires a focus on the core offer for students; that which is routinely provided for all students rather than compensatory, bespoke services provided for particular groups of students. If the core offer is appropriately designed to ensure the success of a diverse student body, the need for additional services is minimised.

As the quality of education is a core concern for all higher education professionals, it follows that all staff should be invested in and contribute towards internationalisation. A successful internationalised institution is arguably one that seeks to change its culture, going beyond the quality and content of what is taught and how, to nurture the quality of the ethos, whereby intercultural and global perspectives are valued, and staff and students sense of belonging is fostered.

If all our graduates are to have the confidence and skills to live and work successfully in the world, international perspectives are increasingly important aspects of both the delivery of learning activities and their associated assessments.

Rapid changes in the economic and political environment of the world along with communications technology create situations where we face increasing diversity, in our local and national lives and as citizens of a world. The impact on jobs and living standards has increased competition for world resources and demonstrates the importance of communication in place of war and building the interconnectedness of all people on the planet. We all want to make the world a better place and safeguarding the environment, feeding the world and freeing it of disease and conflict are key issues of our time. At the same time traditional centres of power are declining while others are developing. There are few areas of study where such issues do not have an impact and students need to be able to think in global contexts and apply the skills of being multi-disciplinary, multicultural and multi-locational to their work and lives.

Students need a learning experience which prepares them to compete in a global market place and graduates will need the skills, work experience and business acumen required by businesses and organisations all over the world.

At the same time a significant number of our students are themselves international; facing the challenges of studying in a second language and an academic culture with different demands. They may also be living in an unfamiliar culture. They are developing complex intercultural skills that will serve them well especially if their home countries develop and change rapidly, socially and economically, but they need to be able to access and influence the learning, teaching and assessment we offer them.

How can I start to Internationalise my teaching practice?

The following are a few ways that you can start to internationalise your learning and teaching practice:

  • Ensuring the delivery and aims of the course are accessible to non-native English speakers and students of different cultural backgrounds. This can be done by explaining reasons for teaching style, making aims explicit and allowing time to adjust to performance oriented learning. Also creating opportunities to practice and develop unfamiliar skills such as referencing, reflective and academic writing, responding to feedback, etc.;
  • Encouraging the positive use of international students’ local knowledge and experience in group activities and informing course content;
  • Managing group work and use virtual environments to facilitate and encourage cross cultural engagement;
  • Providing opportunities for students to create content using cross-cultural approaches and develop both competence based and critical evaluation skills when working with content in a global context;
  • Encouraging collaborative approaches to learning in order that learners can develop, and benefit from, global and intercultural perspectives, including the integration of voluntary work and work placements into the course.

What support is available to me and my students?

There are a wide range of resources which can be used to help international students to make a smooth transition into a different academic culture and these can be part of your Customer Relations Management or pre arrival platform, but these are often better understood and engaged with at the beginning of the course.

There are a range of case studies, resources and ideas for staff at Teaching International Students and a number of guides which can help you to support your students in:

  • Academic writing;
  • Collaborative learning – e.g. Managing group-work;
  • Developing critical and questioning approaches to learning;
  • Reflection and presentation – introducing the ideas of lifelong learning and attributes based presentation of their work and experience;
  • Intercultural skills- developing awareness of the ‘other’ and how to manage intercultural communication.

For students with English as a second or additional language, the University English Scheme is offering:

  • Workshops for students – Non-credit Academic English Classes
  • Language advisory appointments. Here your students can discuss sections of their assignments with an Academic English lecturer. To make an appointment, please direct your students to Hallam Help in Charles Street and request the pink LAS (language advisory service) folder and follow the instructions. For further advice please contact

The International Experience Team – providing specialist services, advice and guidance on a range of issues affecting study and welfare including:

  • Guidance on course, assessment and financial issues
  • Workshops run each semester to help your students adjust to UK study methods and teaching styles
  • Close links with Hallam Union and other groups to provide activities and social events throughout the year
  • Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions page for international students

HEA’s Internationalising Higher Education Toolkit

This toolkit complements the strategic direction set out in The Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) Framework for internationalising higher education and offers tools for reflection and planning to help you embed the framework into policy and practice.

The Toolkit:

  • Explores pedagogic research, teaching resources and case studies to inform your practice, including ideas and tips for getting started
  • Enables you to hear from colleagues in the sector, for example through audio-visual material and HEA blog posts

Internationalising Higher Education Toolkit –

Internationalisation: Best Practice Tips

Think about the international content in your course/module.

What are you already doing, and how non Eurocentric is it? Can you do more to make your students learning more global in its focus?

Be explicit

Make sure that you think about the way in which your teaching is available and accessible to your students. Try talking slowly, providing visual clues to the main points, ensuring students understand and review the impact of the change.

Don’t rule out internationalisation at home

Encouraging students from all cultural backgrounds to connect and develop their intercultural skills, either through informal projects such as Venture Matrix or volunteering, or in structured and managed group work activity, will enhance students’ intercultural capacity as effectively as study or work abroad.

Don’t start from scratch

There are many useful examples of case studies which can be easily adapted to different learning contexts and subject disciplines. These may come from colleagues within SHU or from others working in similar ways in the sector. This resource bank has case studies within each stage of the student journey.

Remember to consider the needs of your students

If you have a group of students who are from different cultural backgrounds you will need to consider how you ensure they can work together. This sometimes requires a more interventionist style of classroom management and consideration of languages learning levels and differences.

Some students may be unfamiliar with some of the teaching and learning methods you expect to use as well as with the subject discipline you are teaching. Are introducing new methods of delivery using e-learning, how much support your students will need – will you need to provide specific instructions etc.

Value the skills your students have

Many students, who have different styles of writing, need help with referencing and understanding the value of self-reflective learning, will have other valuable skills in computation and memory, professional experience and knowledge of a different culture and languages. Finding ways to value these in your teaching and curriculum can help students connect with one another more effectively, to mutual advantage.

Take advantage of the support offered

Support is available from the International Network. Please contact us with any requests for support in internationalising your teaching, learning and assessment and CDA.

The International Experience Team are a specialised team offering advice, guidance and support for international students as well as a range of services to enhance the international experience of all students and staff through a variety of intercultural learning and employability projects.

Engaging Home and International Students: A Guide for New Lecturers – HEA

This is an excellent guide which values the diversity that mixed groups of home and international students, and staff, bring to HE and seeks to promote teaching where all students can participate and learn effectively. The guide will be useful to those who want to: learn about cultural diversity in approaches to learning; pick up techniques for engaging all students in a range of contexts; uncover their own assumptions and relate them to their teaching practices There are practical suggestions for cross cultural activities, responding to students’ language needs, lecturing, managing group work and engaging students in feedback.

Scudamore, Rachel (2013) Engaging home and international students: a guide for new lecturers, HEA, York –

University of Brighton – Teaching International Students

This is a short and accessible introduction to internationalisation issues with excellent and useful ideas about what you can do.

Teaching International Students Guide –

Internationalisation of Curriculum – M.K. Kitano

Kitano’s model offers a paradigm for multicultural course change by examining course components and levels of change.

Internationalisation of Curriculum – Kitano’s model