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“Looking back is looking forward…” - The next 30 years of internationalisation at SU.
Author: Robert Kotze, Senior Director: SU International
Published: 11/09/2023

​​​​Stellenbosch University is celebrating 30 years of internationalisation this year and SU International is preparing for an external peer review – lots of looking back happening… Can looking back, be looking forward?

 The review is focusing on our alignment with and contribution to SU's Vision and the SU Internationalisation Strategy and on what is in place to deliver our value proposition. It is giving us the possibility to provide a broad and well-informed snapshot of where we are on our journey of Improved consolidation, Enhanced alignment and Augmented moving forward, our base-line motto for post-COVID to make the most of the known and new possibilities for the people in SU International and the broader SU community, our place.

The snapshot has already brought the following considerations to the fore:

  • Newly established entities, like the SDG/2063 Hub, the SU Unit for International Credentialing, the SU Japan Centre, and our engagement with the GUILD of European Research-Intensive Universities are in support of the SU aspiration to be “a proud African knowledge hub that serves the continent through research, innovation and education." In its own right, each one of the entities also contributes to SU's sustainability, “a national asset that serves the diverse needs of our communities".
  • SU International is promoting the eight dimensions of the SU Internationalisation Strategy with wide-ranging possibilities: We are dared to build bi- and multilateral partnership for research collaboration to move beyond mere transactional engagements to stronger collaborative transformative programme development. There are also many possibilities for including Globally Networked Learning opportunities in our partnerships.
  • There is continued high levels of interest from various stakeholders to visit SU to strengthen existing or to explore new possibilities. Within this stakeholder engagement, the extensive contacts during our own international visit add to the possibilities for going forward. The big question here is: To what extent do we follow up and take matters further?
  • There is huge anticipation to see the outcomes of our first year of engagement with international student marketing platforms. How many “clicks" have translated into applications and admissions? How many will eventually register in 2024? Was it possible to increase our 4,2% international undergraduate registrations in 2024? Did it have an impact on SU's commitment to provide access to SA students?
  • The Africa bilateral partnership development portfolio is similarly faced by possibilities regarding partnership mapping and development, moving the partnerships on the transactional ß à transformational continuum through including, for example, the UMOJA student leadership initiative, SDG/2063 perspectives and scholarship development into partnership augmentation plans. There might be even possibilities to reframe some partnerships into Thematic bilateral partnerships for more focus,
  • Incoming Study Abroad (free movers) numbers have grown as a result of SU's interaction with SKEMA Business School. What is the scope, again possibilities, for growing this portfolio to ensure financial sustainability regarding outgoing mobility bursaries and maintaining, and even strengthening, the SU International service delivery platform?
  • We have moved forward regarding our Employment Equity profile. How do we translate that commitment to inclusion into a more diverse cohort of outgoing mobility students? Is it only about increasing the travel bursary amount?
  • The portfolio of short-term mobility programmes is significant. Growing the portfolio will need more capacity. However, there is a possibility to go beyond the number of programmes by integrating them within the overarching Global Education Programme to ensure that we contribute to our Global Student Learning Outcomes (GSLOs).
  • We have moved forward with creating internationalisation possibilities for PASS colleagues. The notion of “being an internationalisation practitioner" is gaining traction. How do we continue facilitating wider understanding and embracing of internationalisation in the institution beyond SU International?
  • Regarding scholarship development, we can point to milestones – a solid roadmap illustrating progress. To what extent should we go beyond the capacity building of the PhD pipeline? How do we submerge the possibilities into our Africa partnerships and our work in African multilateral networks?

The first part of the stocktaking, compiling the report, has already prompted the above possibilities. It informs our looking forward:

  • Bringing all global education initiatives within the Global Education Programme will contribute towards improved consolidation.
  • Further alignment of the new initiatives with SU's aspirations and further development of the international undergraduate student marketing initiatives within the overarching institutional student recruitment imperatives will ensure overall enhanced alignment.
  • “Sweet spot" development for each African partnership, a mid-term review of the Partnership Framework and growing the profile of our outgoing student cohort regarding inclusion will facilitate augmented moving forward.

The engagement with the review panel is forthcoming. This will further help us to learn and look forward to finetune our responses towards the already emerged (“looking back") possibilities and to create an appropriate optical prism for possibilities on the horizon.

As SU International, we are ready to learn from the review process – from one another, from the review panel and from internal stakeholders. This will enable us to co-create new milestones regarding the possibilities for the people in SU International and the broader SU community, our place, all for the next 30 years.


Robert Kotzé

21 August 2023

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