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Reframing Internationalisation as Augmented Comprehensive Internationalisation
Author: Robert Kotze, Senior Director: Stellenbosch University International
Published: 29/04/2021

In 2020, COVID-19 disrupted the internationalisation puzzle that all universities were busy piecing together. At first, many internationalisation practitioners were somehow at a loss when physical mobility was halted. Work from Home, in the personal and institutional sense, eventually brought some insight that all was not lost – the internationalisation puzzle was not gone; the pieces were only different, more interesting and more “edgy", waiting to be uncovered and added to our existing core pieces.

At SU, one of our core pieces is our definition of internationalisation:

An institutional commitment to intentionally and comprehensively integrate an international, intercultural and global dimension into the purpose, functions and programmes for all SU students and staff in order to advance the quality and impact of learning and teaching, research and innovation, in meaningful service of society.

Defining internationalisation as “comprehensive" implies that it is an institution-wide imperative, influencing all dimensions of the University – governance, organisational, research, academic programmes, engagement, reputation and innovation – all underpinned by students and staff, the people who should ultimately benefit from the puzzle. These dimensions are interrelated and multi-layered, which is why piecing together the internationalisation puzzle requires collaboration between internal and external stakeholders.

The pandemic is still with us. It constantly demands nimble responses and good navigation skills to bring and keep the academic project together. At an institutional level, SU has now moved from Emergency Remote Teaching, Learning and Assessment (ERTLA) to Augmented Remote Teaching, Learning and Assessment (ARTLA), which comprises a mix of face-to-face tuition, online and hybrid learning. At SU International too, we have moved from Emergency One-dimensional Internationalisation (“getting everyone safely back home") to a more thoughtful stage, which I would like to call Augmented Comprehensive Internationalisation, not just Hybrid, but Augmented.

Generally, augmented means “greater in size or value". In music terms, it denotes an interval “denoting or containing an interval which is one semitone greater than the corresponding major or perfect interval" or “An augmented product has been enhanced by its seller with added features or services to distinguish it from the same product offered by its competitors. Augmenting a product involves including intangible benefits or add-ons that go beyond the product itself."

The pandemic has seen SU International focusing not only on our core pieces, but also reaching for that interval “one semitone greater". All the possibilities offered by the virtual world, which, ironically, have always been there, are now enabling us to enhance our “product" to “go beyond the product itself" by bringing the following exciting pieces to our internationalisation puzzle:

  • More virtual delegation visits with partners to strengthen the functional impact of partnerships. We no longer have to wait for a visit or conference to catch up, and then wait some more back home for the report. More colleagues can “Zoom in" at the same time, and all are in the loop, which makes for broader-based ownership within the partnership.
  • Enrichment of taught programmes through the ability to “Zoom in" a class from anywhere in the world, which offers new modes of internationalisation-at-home as part of Global Networked Learning
  • More networked interaction as budding university alliances and consortia find their feet online, unlocking new impetus for new conversations between existing bilateral partners who belong to the same group
  • More options to deal with academic administrative processes online, which leaves more time for short, managed in-person interactions. In this regard, we conducted our first augmented, hybrid welcoming programme for new in-person and online international semester students earlier this year. So, while we have lots to learn and tweak still, it is possible.
  • International@SU meetings involving SU International managers, heads of campus international offices, and our colleague in Brussels, which – in itself a small greater semi-tone, but resulting in augmented alignment
  • International@Faculty forums with a liaison in SU International to ensure augmented support focusing on faculty initiatives as well as complementing them institutionally – again something obvious for many, but an initiative augmenting our work brought about by the COVID break.

    The question is: Why did we not do it before? Perhaps we were too focused on the picture on the puzzle box (the strategy blueprint perhaps?). The pandemic has broken the box. We are now learning that the picture can be augmented and can become much more comprehensive and much more than the picture on the box.


    Robert Kotzé

    24 March 2021​