UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM
The University has been international in its mission and outlook since it was granted its Royal
Charter in 1900. This has been demonstrated and reinforced through the research, teaching
programmes, staff and students of the University. Given the University’s current strategic review,
it is appropriate to revisit this aspect of the University’s culture, within the modern context of
global education and global markets. The University needs to engage explicitly and strategically
with the internationalisation agenda, and determine what this will mean to the University by 2010
2. Background and Context
The University Strategic Framework Birmingham 2010: Creating Excellence from Inquiry,
Discovery and Action reaffirms the goal of the University to “be internationally recognised as
among the world’s best universities, building on its current excellence in research and learning
across a wide range of disciplines”1. This International Strategy2 is designed to direct actions
towards further achieving this goal, within an overall HE context of global competition, global
communication and the changing expectations of stakeholders.
The University is successful in many international arenas. Amongst a range of potential indices
the University has the 4th highest number of international students amongst UK HEIs and nearly a
quarter of academic staff are overseas nationals. Research income from international sources
provides almost 10% of total research funds and the University is one of only 11 UK HEIs in the
top 100 universities in the Jiao Tong (China) worldwide league table3. Despite this success the
University cannot stand still. To remain competitive in an increasingly competitive global market
for education, learning and research the University needs to enhance its international activities,
building on its strengths. To achieve this requires an approach to Internationalisation that is
strategic, co-ordinated and plays to the University’s existing strengths. The University is sited in
the UK’s second city, a city with a diverse multicultural history and population and this provides a
range of opportunities towards achieving Internationalisation.
Internationalisation can be seen as the process of reinforcing and further integrating “an
international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and services of an institution”4. In
many areas the University is already international in terms of curriculum content, the
backgrounds of students and staff, the diversity of research partners and reputation overseas.
This Strategy focuses on enhancing existing strengths, building up strengths in areas where this
may be required and further integrating international activities to add value, enhance the student
experience, ensure sustained change and gain strategic advantage. The University will need to
reinforce its current position as a campus-based University by extending to activities that
complement this position and enhance our ability to succeed in making the most of this position.
International recognition is a key factor in the Strategy. Recognition as an international university
nationally and internationally flows from a combination of recognition of quality of provision and of
activity on the international stage. It is therefore critical that the Strategy is reinforced by
provision of support facilities and structures to deliver quality services to the international student,
partner or other stakeholder and to secure new research contracts and links and enter into new
In summary internationalisation means internationalising our existing activities and processes
and developing the culture and feel of the University as a genuine international community. It is
also about increasing our market share of specific overseas markets in recruitment, research,
staff and other areas. Although these can be seen as separate approaches their integration is
key to the success of the strategy and throughout this document the two are included together.
1 Section 1, final draft of the document as presented to Senate June 2005
2 Throughout this document ‘international’ is used to mean ‘non-UK’
3 World League Table of Universities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Institute of Education, Summer 2004
4 Knight, P and de Wit, H Quality and Internationalisation in Higher Education, OECD, 1999
This Strategy sets out Strategic Goals for the University from which a number of actions and
initiatives will be identified. Some of these will build on existing strengths and activity; some are
new initiatives that will require funding. Some cultural changes will be required in order to ensure
that the international agenda is embedded and embraced in all that we do.
3. Key Themes
There are a number of key themes which underline the University’s approach. These include:
Recognising the significance and success of the University’s current wide-ranging
international activities and achievements in academic disciplines and service and support
areas, identifying the strengths on which they build and reinforcing them.
Adapting the culture of the University to develop a genuinely international culture, outlook
and orientation within the University community.
Identifying international regions and countries to target for recruitment, research,
collaborative programmes or other links on the basis of an informed appreciation of the
relevant national contexts and effective assessment of future trends
Ensuring a proactive and strategic approach to the identification of potential partners in
all areas of activity and the development of effective, sustainable, mutually beneficial and
Utilising significant unique selling points such as the location of the University in a major
European, multicultural city to help achieve international aims
These themes are reflected in and underpin the different sections below.
4. Leadership, governance, management and organisation
The breadth of the University’s existing and potential international activity necessitates strategic
leadership to co-ordinate different strands and provide a clear focus for development. Resources
will need to be directed where they are must effective and this will require a selective approach.
The Vice-Principal will Chair an International Board which will oversee the international portfolio
of activities including the implementation of actions arising from this Strategy. The Board will
provide strategic direction to and central co-ordination of activities, ensuring that the appropriate
support mechanisms, services and policies are in place, and co-ordinating the communication of
these activities. The Board will also oversee the University’s involvement in U21 and other
international networks, and manage a ‘seed fund’ available to Schools and Corporate Services to
facilitate the development of links and international activities, within the overall framework. This
could include travel grants, administrative support or staff buyouts. The Board will delegate
responsibility for delivering the various parts of the Strategy to different leads. The Board would
report to USMC.
The Board will set up a number of time-limited International Region Working Groups to review
activity and potential for each global region and develop a regional plan, encompassing student
recruitment, collaborative provision, research links, communications and other activities. The
Board will be responsible for determining priority markets based on the plans provided by the
Working Groups and for overseeing the implementation of these plans.
Representatives of academic Schools and Corporate Services will be involved in the International
Board and the International Region Working Groups and it is anticipated that the former will lead
the International Region Working Groups. The Board will discuss with Schools the idea of
establishing a network of School ‘champions’ in the delivery of the International Strategy. Any
initiatives or developments must be sensitive to existing arrangements and investments by
1. To develop a coherent and agreed Action Plan based on the International Strategy.
2. To establish an effective and consultative management structure to oversee the
implementation of the Strategy over the next 2 years.
3. Throughout the period to embed international activities and agendas in other strategies
4. To support the work of the Board and International Region Working Groups by providing
appropriate and timely information on the breadth of existing activity through a
comprehensive inventory of activity.
5. To review the administrative and support structures that underpin international activities
to determine that they are appropriately structured, organised and resourced.
5. Student recruitment, programmes, experience and support
The University plans to increase international student numbers as a share of total postgraduate
and undergraduate population. Such students and their families will increasingly expect more
support from the University in all that they do, including from specialist areas such as immigration
advice. The needs of international students will vary according to their academic background,
age, nationality, English language ability whether or not they are accompanied by partners or
dependants, and many other factors. Support services need to reflect this diversity of need and
be more visible to students. The University will undertake new and utilise existing research to
identify what it is that attracts international students to the UK and ensure that recruitment
activity, programmes of study and support services reflect these factors.
The Bologna Agreement5 and the changes to the structure of HE provision in Europe provide
opportunities for the development of Masters programmes for a European audience. These
changes include all HE providers in Europe following a ‘two cycle’ model, similar to that already in
operation in the UK, where students complete a ‘Bachelors cycle’ and then go on to complete a
‘Masters cycle’. This means that the demand for postgraduate programmes is likely to rise6 and
the UK is in a strong position to capitalise on these developments. However, the nature of the
competition will change and the University will need to be centrally co-ordinated in terms of
marketing and strategy to ensure maximum gain from this development.
The growth in trans-national education (distance learning, studying for a qualification from
another country in the home country) is rapid and provides significant opportunities to
internationalise. Development is time-consuming and must take into account different learning
systems and styles, and pedagogic issues. Development is best done in partnership with other
institutions where risk and costs can be shared. Joint awards offer considerable potential when
they allow the extension of markets and expertise. The University has significant experience of
distance delivery on a sole and partnership basis and will focus on validation and ‘institutional
APL’ where partners’ work can be identified as preparation for entry to an existing programme.
The University will keep under review the issue of establishing offshore campuses. The
International Board may wish to revisit the current policy of not undertaking this significant
investment once other elements of the Strategy have been implemented.
The University will also develop further initiatives in ‘internationalisation at home’. By
internationalising the curriculum the University will prepare students to be able to work in different
linguistic and cultural environments, and to appreciate their position within a global network as
‘global citizens’. Providing an internationally relevant curriculum will give students the tools to be
competitive in the global employment market. A quarter of UK jobs are related to international
trade7 and language skills, business skills and cultural sensitivity are all key to the success and
employability of our graduates. Through a combination of embedding these skills in the
curriculum and encouraging their development through the Personal Skills Award and Personal
Development Planning the University will be more attractive to academically able students and
The Bologna Agreement, to which the UK is a founding signatory, commits 33 governments to playing their part in an
action programme to create a European Higher Education Area by the year 2010. European Higher Education as a whole
will be characterised by its commitment to the ‘employability’ and mobility of students and academics, and to the
competitiveness and quality of national systems on the international stage. Initiatives include measures to encourage
greater compatibility and comparability between different degree structures and credit schemes.
6 Vision 20:20: Forecasting International Student Mobility, British Council, 2004
7 page 6, DfES Putting the World into World-Class Education: An international strategy for education, skills and children’s
ensure they are appropriate ambassadors for the quality of the University’s education. The
University will also actively promote the integration of international students with home students
and with the life of the University so that the University truly benefits from the cultural diversity of
its student population.
6. In an increasingly diverse overseas market, to target our recruitment on specific
countries, so as to recruit the most able students at both undergraduate and
7. To ensure effective and appropriate support for international students and their families
while at Birmingham.
8. To increase the international exposure and mobility of students through pedagogic
developments, curriculum innovation and improved facilitation of placements and
9. To work with strategic international partners to develop quality joint and collaborative
6. University Staff and Alumni
The University will support its staff in achieving the international agenda. The success of the
Strategy will depend on the actions of individual staff and on the support that they receive to
implement the international agenda. On an individual level this will include providing the right
working environment, access to networks and time to pursue research and teaching links, and at
the School or group level this will include provision of appropriate support to manage and
administer this key area of activity. The value of staff spending time in other institutions on
sabbaticals, fellowships and other schemes is recognised, and the University will support such
developments where possible.
The University has many staff with non-UK backgrounds. As an example, over a third of
research staff are international and have considerable expertise, local knowledge and
understanding of different overseas markets, institutions and cultures. The University will look to
encourage these experiences to be shared more widely with colleagues, much as with
international students, and to use the overseas links of international colleagues to help to further
the internationalisation aims of the University.
The University has over 150,000 active contacts amongst alumni. Alumni are proud of their link
with the University and the University will work to strengthen that link and determine what our
alumni want from the University. The University will develop strategies that enable those alumni
who wish to engage with and support the University to do so within a clear framework of activity
and with the provision of appropriate briefing and support.
10. To support staff in undertaking international activities through the establishment of small
funds, provision of information and advice and general encouragement and recognition of
11. To provide alumni who work with the University with a framework of support, advice and
12. To provide practical, social and immigration support for new international staff to
enhance the University’s reputation as a truly multinational and multicultural employer
7. Partnerships and International Reputation
Key to the success of the Strategy is the careful management of relationships – with staff,
students, prospective students, alumni, partner organisations, networks, government, funders
and more. Issues include identifying why we have particular relationships as well as effective
management of those relationships. The University must ensure that those institutions and
organisations with which it collaborates, at whatever level, reflect back the Birmingham brand of
excellence in all that we do. For all forms of partnership, and where appropriate, the University
will look to extend existing agreements to other areas of activity, building on initial contacts.
The University will focus on further developing its international reputation as a world class
University. This will require collating all of the strengths and achievements of the University from
all areas and adapting the message for local markets. The University gains considerable
advantage by having live, physical (infrastructure) links with two world class media brands – Sky
and the BBC – both of whom are based on campus. Innovative methods of communication and
publicity will be explored, including making greater use of the University’s web presence with
initiatives such as International Landing pages from other related and connected websites.
The University’s membership of U21 provides a unique opportunity to learn more about other
markets, share information, develop collaborative provision and provide opportunities for staff
and students to belong to networks and engage with different institutions and cultures. The
University is also a member or prospective member of other networks and alliances and will work
to use these to further the aims of the University.
The University will extend its close relationship with local and regional government and work with
these colleagues to promote the City of Birmingham, the West Midlands, the City Region and the
University together to international audiences. This will include active promotion of the
University through agencies such as West Midlands in Europe, the region’s Brussels Office. The
University will collaborate with these agencies in promoting the ‘Birmingham’ brand overseas.
The University will seek to influence national policy development and work with different
government agencies to strengthen the position of the University. The University will also involve
these other stakeholders in the development of the University and in furthering the
The work of the International Board and its working groups will be communicated as widely as
possible in the University to encourage participation and engagement with this important area of
13. To manage more efficiently and effectively the myriad relationships the University has
with partners, sponsors, government, media and other stakeholders.
14. To re-focus activity on the development and extension of the University’s membership of
U21, exploiting its activities to the full.
15. To work with regional agencies to promote the City and Region overseas and to develop
more international collaborative projects.
8. Research and Knowledge Transfer
The University’s Research Strategy sets out how the University will build on research excellence.
Key to this are the Collaborative Research Networks that the University has established. The
University will work with research funders and partners in networks such as U21 to identify global
trends in the research agenda and ensure Birmingham is prepared to engage with these agendas
in its staff and facilities. The University has had considerable success in competing for, and being
awarded, research funds from prestigious sources. Success in European collaborations and
partnerships is particularly apparent: for example the University is involved in 63 FP6
collaborative research programmes and leading 14 other collaborative research programme
Knowledge transfer and commercialisation of the University’s research is key to the Research
Strategy and many of the most important spinouts or licences involve international commercial
partners or global businesses. The University will work to make use of these links to further
develop the research profile. Mechanisms for sharing the growing expertise of staff in partnering
global companies will be developed.
16. To diversify and grow existing sources of funding from international sponsors, identifying
new sources and working with partners and directly with funding providers to maximise
17. To use the Research Strategy and activities associated with the preparation for the RAE
2008 to enhance the international reputation of the research undertaken in the University.
18. To ensure a high level of visibility through academic publications in recognised journals
and other appropriate means, and influencing and contributing to debates.
Further investment will be required to achieve many of the Goals in this Strategy. The
International Board will provide an approval framework in which the identification of costs and
requirements for additional resources can be appropriately assessed and prioritised. Some
reconsideration of the resourcing model may be required, and many costs will need to be shared
by the Schools and Corporate Services. Any changes to the resourcing model will need to
ensure that those Schools who are unable to expand their international activities (including
international recruitment) due to funding reasons will not be disadvantaged. The Board will
prioritise those activities that emphasise partnership. The Board will also expect to see changes
in existing practices and structures to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in all areas. The Action
Plan that will be developed to accompany this Strategy will identify the resource implications of
different activities and where additional costs, or savings, may be required.
Given the large number of activities that will be undertaken under the internationalisation banner,
it will be essential to monitor the effectiveness of these activities and of the Strategy. An Action
Plan will be developed from the list of ideas and initiatives commented on during the drafting of
the Strategy. The University will develop clear criteria for measuring the success of the Strategy
and the Action Plan, and to ensure that arrangements are fit for purpose.