Internationalization of higher education is one of the main layers of changes in universities. Different practices of internationalization of studies can be met in any university/ faculty/ department. However, in spite of notable developments, mainly since the implementation of Bologna Process, the obstacles toward an efficient internationalization are still there (different formal procedures inside the universities, bureaucracy, resources, attitude of the staff etc.). Even the faculties/ departments/ programs being more active in international activities, and setting joint study programs, consolidated and diverse international partnerships, both for didactic and research purposes, have to cope with different levels of openness of the academic staff towards the teaching from and in international perspective. The paper will highlight some of the points of view of the academic staff regarding their internationalization practices. The data gathered from semi-structured interviews is presented with the purpose to provide a better understanding both of their needs for better internationalization of the teaching and research, but also for providing some possible explanations about their hesitations/ resistance toward a more extended international activity.
Keywords: Internationalizationhigher education institutionsacademic staff; factors/ benefits of internationalization
Internationalization of the higher education institutions (HEIs) is an increasingly debated topic,
very important for universities, both varied and complex. In Romania, over the past 25 years, the
international dimensions of higher education have further evolved, having an explosive trend, once re-
opening the higher education institutions (HEIs) to the wider world, and benefiting for freedom of
communication, mobility and exchange, as far the communist dictatorship was away. An even more
intensive focus towards internationalization could be noticed since the implementation of the Bologna
Process, the building up of European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the joining of European Union
(2007). In the last five years, since the more intensive debate of the international ranking of universities,
to focus towards internationalization is even more intensive, as internationalization of HEIs is one of the
criteria influencing the ranking of the universities. Universities are struggling for an increased reputation,
for attracting an increasing number of students, for enhancing the quality of teaching and research
(Knight, 2008; Guri-R, 2015; de Wit, 2015; Sursock 2015 & UEFISCDI, 2014), to improve student
preparedness, enhance the international profile of the institution, strengthen research and knowledge
production, diversify its faculty, staff, educational offer and its comparability (Henard, 2012; Sursock,
2015 & EC 2015).
Giving these strategic benefits underlined by different studies (EU, 2014 & Sursock, 2015 etc.),
the member states were asked by the European Commission to set up their national strategies of
internationalization, and, in a cascade way, each HEI was asked to act this way, setting up clear aims,
targets, actions and related resources and capacity building (EC, 2015).
Internationalization of education is a process which may take various forms, and we refer to these
two main related components – “internationalization at home” and “internationalization abroad”.
Internationalization abroad, understood as all forms of education across borders: mobility of people,
projects, programs and providers, consortiums and networks.
curriculum-orientated and focuses on activities that develop international or global understanding and
intercultural skills (Beleen, 2015; de Wit, 2015; Knight, 2016 & UEFISCDI, 2015), activities ranging
from supporting incoming staff and students, till organizing joint degrees, scientific and academic events,
joint partnerships, etc.
Both forms of internationalization are effects on institutional strategies for internationalization, the
management of the HEI striving for a ”comprehensive” internationalization (Beleen, 2015). But the ones
to make the different desiderata reality are the academic staff, their attitude towards internationalization
being therefore determinant. The academic staff can act either by their own initiative, in a bottom up way,
mainly for the internationalization at home, or they can act within a given frame and resources made
available by the HEI. The attitude of the academic, administrative and managerial staff of university lay
on a continuum ranging from rejecting such discourse and activities (even not in a declarative way), till
enthusiastically embracing it, being convinced by its added value. The conservative, „nationalist„ ones,
have as arguments the primacy of national values, of national language, the limited language competences
of students, the extra-resources needed, the different formal procedures and regulations to be faced with
in different systems of higher education etc. In reality, they are the ones usually lacking language
competencies, the ones preferring the easy, traditional, experimented way, with less effort, having the fear
of competition, of being exposed. On the opposite, the advocates of internationalization are stressing all
its benefits which motivate them to go for it, for improved personal and professional competencies, for
improved teaching and learning (Trede, 2013; EU, 2014; Henard, 2012; EC, 2015 & Sursock, 2015).
Within departments, faculties, universities, one can notice both forms of internationalization with
various degrees, depending on the engagement of the academic and managerial staff, above all the other
stimulating or hindering factors which might be listed. It is why we have chosen to find out more about
the reasons of academic staff, their inner values and openness towards internationalization.
2.The Romanian Context of Internationalization of Higher Education
Romania follows the direction of internationalization of European higher education by adopting in
2012, at the Bucharest Ministerial Conference, the Mobility Strategy 2020 for the European Higher
Education Area (EHEA). The document specifies the measures that need to be adopted by higher
education institutions and calls for universities to build their own internationalization strategy and to
promote mobility considering their profile while involving stakeholders, particularly students, teachers,
researchers and other staff. It also underlines that higher education institutions should take into
consideration mobility and competences of their staff, giving them formal recognition for competences
gained abroad, provide incentives for participating in mobility programs and ensuring quality work
conditions for mobile teachers (UEFISCDI, 2015).
Furthermore, at national level in the last five years, mainly due to the activity of UEFISCDI, the
national agency for financing higher education and research, the topic of internationalization became
more and more visible. From diagnosis studies (UEFISCDI, 2014), till organizing the Ministerial
Conference, or dedicated scientific events with related publications (Deca, 2015 & deWit, 2015), or
running strategic projects for framing the internationalization of Romanian HEIs, different tools for
policy making have been implemented. Acting in line with the European recommendations on
internationalization of higher education, the ministry of education, under the coordination of UEFISCDI,
has set up in 2015 the strategic frame on internationalization of higher education, with a long term vision,
till on 2025 (UEFISCDI, 2015). Similarly, the universities were assisted and asked to set up their
institutional strategy on internationalization in a bottom-up way, through a process of consultations at
faculty level. For example, the West University of Timisoara (WUT/ UVT) has set up such a strategy in
2015 (UVT, 2015). Being a comprehensive university with a total of 11 faculties, such a strategy
development reflects its multidisciplinary character, as well as a focus on the internationalization of the
university as the intersection of departmental strategies on this matter.
The bottom-up process of developing an internationalization strategy at WUT is one which allows
for a clear focus on both teaching staff, as well as students’ specific needs, according to their field of
teaching and studying, in an increasingly internationalized university environment. The strategy is built
around three key areas: internationalisation at home, international students, internationalisation of
academic scientific research. To implement the desiderata of the strategy, at each faculty and department
level there are designated teachers and vice-deans to support the staff and student mobility, beside the
work of the department for international relations. Each faculty and department can list different kinds of
international activities, both at home and abroad, as results of the engaged activity of the academic and
managerial staff. It seemed to us therefore useful to ask them what drives them towards internationality of
their activity, and what it can be done to extend it. Such findings are useful illustrations, important to
enhance the capacity building, and to take the necessary steps to make reality the stipulations of any
strategy of internationalization of HEIs.
3.1. Research Question
A relatively new approach in the Romanian HEIs space, internationalization tends to be today a
trend, a demand and a quality criteria in professionalization. Therefore, it is interesting to analyse the
perceptions of academics form WUT about the influential factors, opportunities, barriers, difficulties and
possible ways of going forward in internationalization. The main question of this analysis is: “What is the
added value of the internationalization in West University of Timisoara?”, “added value” is defined as
going beyond the value of the national strategies of professionalization.
17 academics from WUT answered a semi-structured interview about internationalization in WUT.
From them, 11 are from Faculty of Sociology and Psychology (FSP) and 6 from others WUT faculties,
but are implicated in internationalization as Erasmus+ coordinators for international students. 8 of them
have the teaching position of senior lectures, 7 of associate professor and 2 are professors. Their
experience in higher education vary from 5 to 36 years, with a mean age of 16.11. 16 of them have
participated in international mobility programs, and only one have not. It has been chosen mainly the FSP
as pilot faculty of investigation, due to existing study programs set as joint degree, or international ones,
due to its wide range of international partnerships, consortia, scientific events and projects run, being one
of the very active faculties from internationalization point of view. The Erasmus coordinators from the
other faculties were also selected, as the ones having a wide view on the barriers, obstacles, the overall
international activities in their faculties.
3.3. Research Method
multiple responses, and 6 open questions.
4. Data analysis, Findings and Discussions
Internationalization can be found in almost all educational institutions, but in HEIs has a decisive
impact on the quality of the academic process. Connecting the curriculum and the research to the newest
scientific discoveries and trends can be obtained only by staying in tune with the international scientific
community. It is important to determine the academics opinions in the benefits of internationalization, but
also about the difficulties they encountered and the importance they give to the process.
the curriculum, research and scientific human relations in WUT. From the academics` responses we
determined five principal ways of making internationalization at home. The most frequent answers (53%)
refer to “making efforts to invite visiting professors to lecture at WUT” and “organizing international
scientific events”. The assistant professors adopt in majority (66%) the modality of inviting visiting
professors, and the (associate/) professors prefer (56%) to organize international scientific events. The
academics with lower teaching experience in higher education (below 15 years) prefer (78%) to invite
international lecturers, and the academics with higher experience (over 15 years) prefer (56%) to organize
scientific events. Another response theme (41%) refers to “teaching to international students”. The vast
majority (86%) that view international students as an important part of internationalization at home were
assistant professors and academics with a lower teaching experience (57%). The services mentioned in
relation with international mobility students were “counselling, bibliographic recommendations, and
adapted requirements for Erasmus students” (5) “mentoring for Erasmus students, scientific discussions”
(7), “insertion of Erasmus students in social programs” (9), and “offering lectures for Erasmus students”
“Updating the curriculum to the international trends” was mention in 29% of cases. The higher
teaching positions are predominant in this approach (80%).
a. Perception on the level of WUT internationalization
It is important to determine the degree of satisfaction about the internationalization process, in
order to develop new strategies and propose new measures. The predominant respondents` perception
about WUT`s internationalization process is that it takes place at a good level, 6 of them adopt this
position. They appreciate that WUT “has great opportunities for development on international visibility”
(2), “has a powerful international research” (4) and “has made great efforts in the internationalization
process” (12). Others (4, 24%) consider that “the internationalization process is a good one, but it is still a
lot of work to do” (1, 5, 7, 15). Between the possible domains of improvement they mentioned:
”coordinating the internationalization efforts at the university level” (1), “improving payment procedures
for external lectors” (7) or “going deeper in harnessing international cooperation” (1). 4 respondents
(24%) appreciate the WUT internationalization as moderate and only 2 (17%) as very good. One
respondent (6.57%) acknowledges that is not informed and cannot appreciates the matter.
b. Pro-internationalization factors
To analyse the international profile of an institution it is important to determine the factors which
contribute to foster pro-international choices and behaviours. The most specified was the human resource
factor: “Availability, openness and determination of teachers”, present in 47% of responses. The
respondents value the academics implication in establishing international relation in lecture, and research:
“Participation of staff and students at conferences, projects, partnerships and international mobility” (2),
“personal relationships of WUT teachers with other teachers” (4), “personal ties that teachers` have with
other universities or academics” (7), “teachers` participation in research teams and international projects”
(9). The organizational factor is not so much mention in academics` responses, only four of them
mentioned the institutional organization as a decisive influence in internationalization: “existence of a
WUT internationalization strategy” (11), “dynamic management and transparent institutional
communication” (10), “existence of an operational strategy and consistent international approach” (1). An
important factor that emerged from the academic’s responses was the academics` English fluency
(23.52%), without whom international exchanges cannot be possible. The possibility of participating in
Erasmus + mobility program was considered by 17 % of responders an important opportunity in
international exchanges. The academics also mentioned “the existing of English versions of Faculties`
web pages” (5) or “the diverse specializations that can be found in WUT” (7).
a. Barriers perceived in WUT internationalization process
The difficulties identified by the academics are very diverse and heterogeneous. Although the
English fluency was mentioned as a pro-internationalization factor, it is also present in many responses as
a barrier in internationalization. 6 (35%) of the responders listed the linguistic barrier among the most
crucial obstacle in internationalization. ”Low English knowledge of the academics” (9, 11),”low
competencies in English of the Romanian students” (5), ”the need to overcome the shyness to
communicate in a foreign language” (16), ”lack of free English courses for teachers” (16), or ” foreign
students are unable to attend classes because they do not speak Romanian” (17). The accessibility issue
for international students and staff was also raised: ”the existing of a map / diagram of the building at the
entrance; tablets bilingual (multilingual) or emoticons showing the locations of WUT: classrooms,
offices; special training of public relations personnel (secretaries, teachers)” (15). ”The low competency
in establishing and maintaining international relations” (9), ”a low level in research, incompatible with
the international one” (5), or ”the lack of interest and implication” (11), ”conservatism and the fact that
the focus is put more on the national dimension” (17) were also mentioned.
b. Perceived advantages of internationalization
The main perceived advantage of internationalization is the increased institutional visibility, 10
responders mentioned it. Also, attracting resources, both human and material, is perceived by 5 as a main
positive consequence of internationalization,. The process of internationalization can “involve in the
didactic process experienced teachers, experts in the field” (12), and “create international research teams
that attract substantial funding for WUT” (5). The internationalization can be “a source of validation of
individual competencies”(1), “a real display of good practice cases” (5) and “a field of learning and
personal development” (10). Also, advantages on the curriculum planning and in increasing the quality of
the educational process were mentioned: “contribute at the correlation of the learning content with the
most current scientific findings” (2), “helps to improve the learning process and to a establish a character
of novelty” (5) and “a chance to learn from diverse experiences, different cultures and a diversity of
c. Perceived disadvantages of internationalization
The most frequent responses (64.7%) were that there are no disadvantages, and the
internationalization process attract, in general, positive consequences. Although, the main mentioned
disadvantage is the moving into background the national dimension of teaching and research, with
negative consequences on the national scientific language, national scientific themes, and national
research identity: ”the constraint to publish in English in order to have a good international visibility, can
cause the cessation of national scientific language and in long term lousing the cultural and scientific
identity” (11), “translating the English academic language can cause confusions and improper use of
terminology” (16), “to many imported terminology can have a negative impact on the development on the
national scientific language” (1). The internationalization can “negatively affect the learning and research
content” (7), “the desire to connect to international themes can determine the giving up of the specific
national and local themes, and the decrease of local relevance” (8). Also, the internationalization process
is viewed as “time consuming” (9) and “resource consuming, the best students leave in mobility
d. Possible ways of development
The main theme of response (52.3%) refers to continuing and deepening existing efforts: “invite
more experienced and international recognized lecturers” (7), “organize more international exchanges and
mobility programs”, “organize more international conferences” (2), but mainly go for relevant
partnerships for research, putting more efforts in this more sustainable path” (1). Some responders (4,
23.52%) propose “to be organize free English courses for teachers” (11) or “to pay more attention to the
sites English version” (3). Other proposals include: “the proposal of transdisciplinary disciplines in
English offered by each department” (4), “implementing joint international study programs” (15) or
“monitoring and rewarding the internationalization promoters” (1).
The internationalization process is very important in increasing HEIs` visibility, international
relevance and academic standards. The existence of a national and local internationalization strategy is an
important factor who can foster institutional initiatives and personal behaviours and pro-
internationalization attitudes. The coherence between institutional measures and the individual efforts can
determine the increased internationalization of tertiary education.
The human resource is viewed as the main beneficial pro-internationalization factor: participation
of staff and students at conferences, projects, partnerships and international mobility, personal
relationships of WUT teachers, personal ties that teachers` have with other universities or academics or
teachers` participation in research teams and international projects have definite added value to improved
teaching and learning processes. However, it is to be noted, that the young staff is less favourable and
experienced in setting up more diverse internationalization activities, being shy, and with less contacts,
further support being needed. The organizational factor is not so much mention in academics` responses,
but the existence of a WUT internationalization strategy, or the dynamic management and transparent
institutional communication can positively contribute. An important factor that emerged from the
academic’s responses was the academics` English fluency without whom international exchanges cannot
be possible, but also the setting up of more motivating tools, and resources to foster the
The difficulties in the internationalization process identified by the academics are very diverse and
heterogeneous. Although the English fluency was mentioned as a pro-internationalization factor, it is also
present in many responses as a barrier in internationalization. The accessibility issue for international
students and staff was also raised, and the low competency in establishing and maintaining international
relations or the conservatism.
The main advantages perceived are the increased institutional visibility, attracting resources, both
human, material, and informational, creating international research teams that attract substantial funding
for WUT and the fact that can be a source of validation of individual competencies.
The majority of academics perceived no disadvantages in internationalization, the most frequent
mentioned were the moving into background of the national dimension of teaching and research, with
negative consequences on the national scientific language, national scientific themes, and national
research identity: the cessation of national scientific language and in long term lousing the cultural and
scientific identity and can have a negative impact on the development on the national scientific language.
Possible ways of development are to continue and deepen the current efforts, to propose
transdisciplinary disciplines in English offered by each department, implement joint international study
programs or monitor and reward the internationalization promoters. These are some useful hints, some
confirming existing research (Sursock, 2015; EU, 2014 & Henard, 2102), some highlighting specificity of
Romanian context, but all of them to be taken into consideration while struggling for systematic effort
towards extended internationalization of processes within HEIs.
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Educational strategies, educational policy, organization of education, management of education, teacher, teacher training
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Luştrea, A., Sava, S., & Borca, C. (2017). Internationalization of Higher Education from Teachers Point of View. In E. Soare, & C. Langa (Eds.), Education Facing Contemporary World Issues, vol 23. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 406-414). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.50