"Internationalization" is one of principal features of present day higher education. It is generally agreed that "internationalization" has a positive influence on learning environment of students, research outcomes as well as an overall mission of higher education institutions.
Besides the immense personal value for participating students, the presence of greater cultural diversity on campus benefits the broader student population and academics. Not to mention the economic reasons for attracting foreign students. Therefore it is not surprising to observe a significant growth of international students. According to OECD [see Education at a Glance 2014] the number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.5 million in 2012, a more than fivefold increase. There are indications that this trend, even if at lower pace, is going to continue in the coming years.
Primary actors and beneficiaries of "internationalization" are traditionally students, researchers and universities. It is not surprising to find out that more and more universities and other academic institutions are directly involved international relations by entering into relationship with partners in other countries [dual degrees, joint study programs, collaborative research projects, creation of branch campuses, etc.]. In addition, number of countries has included “internationalization” as part of a strategy for development of higher education. In this context, governments are seeing and supporting extension of international engagement of universities and research organizations as part of public diplomacy with long-term implications for cultural and economic relations. Consequently, “internationalization” has a multitude of forms, varied outcomes and actors – from individual student and academics to universities, scientific bodies as well as governmental and international organizations.
Presented above principal aspects of "internationalization" and its growing relevance inadvertently bring about not only opportunities but also challenges with regard to decisions to be taken in selection of study programme, research team, partner institution or a country for collaboration. There is evidence that “university ranking” is seen and used as one of source of information in such context. Neither is surprising to observe that “internationalization” has found its reflection in a prevailing number of national, regional and global university rankings. Like in other areas, methodological challenges are quite significant, it is therefore appropriate, and in line with the mission of IREG Observatory, to look at the underlying concepts, actual practices as well as present and forthcoming challenges facing “internationalization” and university rankings in the context of academic relations.
The IREG-8 conference, hosted by the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, will look closer to above set of specific issues. Similarly to previous IREG conferences, also during this event there will be an opportunity to learn about new initiatives in rankings and related to it developments in universities and other organizations.