Looking at higher education today, I sometimes feel it could be summed up as everyone wanting to be wherever they aren't. Brits are going to US schools in ever greater numbers (where fees suddenly don't seem so high in the face of rising tuition in the UK), while the number of Americans pursuing degrees at British universities (where degrees are shorter and they can still access US student loans) is at an all-time high, according to latest HESA data.
As these students criss-cross over the Atlantic, the East-to-West wave swells. The number of Chinese students doing degrees abroad in the last two years, as noted in a recent Financial Times article, equates to more than a quarter of the total number doing so since China's reform policies began in 1978. Meanwhile, at an institutional level universities and business schools in the West are scrambling to establish footholds in the East, through partnerships, franchise agreements, satellite campuses and so forth.
Education – like the many industries and markets it fuels – is international. That's certainly what most universities and business schools tend to say about themselves. But how clear are they about what they actually mean by this, and how are they communicating this ‘international' reputation at home and abroad?
A previous blog by my colleague Fiona Leslie contains useful tips on international media relations. The challenge for universities is to juggle the international ball without dropping the domestic one, and that's as true for communications as it is for the overall growth strategy. Some institutions still take a compartmentalised approach, viewing international communications as too distinct from their home activities, or neglecting one of these strands at the expense of, ultimately, both. In doing so they're selling themselves – and their reputation – short.