The Collective Public Policy Voice of the Exchange Community

The British Council released the 2nd volume of their The Shape of Global Higher Education report. This version, released a year after the original, includes results from 12 additional countries as well as frames the results differently to aid higher education institutions rather than only national policy makers. Together the goal of the two frameworks is to “measure government support for international higher education engagement and identify the policy areas where collaborations are most sought.”

The original framework separated results into 3 categories: openness of education systems, quality assurance and degree recognition, and equitable access and sustainable development policies. This framework “reflects the political will of the national government to support international engagement.” The countries with the most supportive international higher education (IHE) policies are Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. However, the report does not evaluate the effectiveness of the policies which consequently means it does not measure practical barriers to engaging in IHE.

The new framework based itself around the themes that guide the internationalization strategies of higher education institutions: international mobility of students, international research collaboration, and transnational education (TNE). By looking at the national policies within these categories, it was possible to conduct an “in-depth exploration of countries’ stance in a particular IHE field”, thus identifying the areas best supported by governments. The report found that most governments prioritize student mobility. The countries with the most well-rounded policies are Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.

Other key findings include:

  • There is a strong positive relationship between the policies supporting international mobility and policies supporting transnational education.
  • Only a third [of the states] have strong quality assurance for [TNE] programmes and recognise TNE qualifications.
  • Globally, there is a consensus about the important contribution of international research collaborations to higher education, the economy and society.
  • There is a strong national push towards collaborative funding and structures which encourage greater international collaborations. However, there is less support for streamlined visas which allow researchers and academics to pursue their research interest beyond national borders.
  • The world’s regions are showing more harmonisation of their higher education systems. This appears to be driven by schemes which facilitate student mobility, collaboration among quality assurance agencies and a wider recognition of academic qualifications.


According to Janet Ilieva, the lead author of the report, the USA isn’t ranked high in either framework because of the absence of a national higher education policy.

“There isn’t a national policy and that’s mainly because internationalisation endeavours are driven at the institutional level. I don’t think the sector gets the same level of support as institutions in Germany for example.”

Overall however, according to Michael Peak, senior advisor on education research at the British Council:

“It seems that international higher education is a priority for a number of countries and this is not something we would’ve seen 10 to 15 years ago.”