'International' as a part of DNA

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Participants at the annual International Relations Conference at VIA University College debated the challenges of internationalization.

What does it mean to be an international university college? Is it enough to offer programmes in English? Or attract thousands of international students every year? Or do research with international partners? Or should ‘international’ be so closely integrated in a university’s DNA as to not be separated from any other part of the business of education? 

These questions were among those discussed at VIA University College’ annual International Relations Conference, which took place in Aarhus on September 30th. Internationalisation is increasingly important nationally, and the Danish government this year launched a new internationalisation strategy. 

Among the government goals is for more Danish students to go abroad to study and do internships – as well as for Danish educational institutions to develop more double-degree programmes with international partners. 

A natural part of what we do 

These goals are also a part of VIA University College’s strategy for internationalisation. However, according to Vice-President at VIA, Peter Friese, a global outlook goes even further. ”I think we need to abandon the idea that internationalisation takes place in international departments run by people who are passionate about the world. It should be a natural part of everything we do as a university college,” said Peter Friese. 

The Vice-President admitted that developing an international DNA includes students, faculty, and staff. “VIA has come a long way already. We attract a lot of international students. However, we need to find ways to have more students go abroad and, just as important, help students integrate their international experiences to their studies upon return to VIA,” said Peter Friese. 

Should studying abroad be mandatory? 

Senior Advisor for International Relations at the University of Lund, Gunilla Carlecrantz, agreed that making use of the knowledge students acquire internationally, is challenging. “Our ambition is that students should be able to start working for an international company the minute they graduate. This requires them to make good use of their stays abroad,” Gunilla Carlecrantz said. She raised the question as to whether studying abroad should be mandatory. As it is now, regulations would not allow it. However, students increasingly choose programmes that include studying abroad. 

Make students aware of their options 

Christian Lausten Sørensen, senior consultant at the Municipality of Aarhus, said the city supports the internationalization of educations in Aarhus. He thinks one way to help increase the number of students who go abroad is as simple as marketing. “Sometimes students just need to learn about their options. So increasing the marketing efforts could be a way to go,” Christian Lausten Sørensen said. 

Pressalit looks for international talent 

Dan Boyter, Vice President at Pressalit said the company, which exports 80 % of its products, looks to increase business in markets outside of Europe – such as China and North America. The company increasingly hires talent with international experience. 

“We look for employees who can help us develop new markets. Also, an international focus is important internally, as Pressalit strives to create a culturally diverse environment,” Dan Boyter said. 

International branding works 

One way for universities to increase their international profile is to focus on branding, said Sven Bislev, Vice-President for Education at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). 

“At CBS, our prestige programmes attract a lot of international attention, just as our double-degree and summer school programmes are important branding activities,” Sven Bislev said. 

Lund University look for ways to use online platforms to boost international activities. 

“Creating global classrooms through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), e-learning and blended learning is a way to boost internationalisation,” she said. 

Choosing the right partners 

One of the challenges the participants discussed is choosing the right international partners. 

“From our presence in China and Romania we learned that cooperating with authorities is often a good first step in pursuing partnerships,” said Peter Friese. 

Sven Bislev said CBS often partners with private companies and organizations before approaching universities. 

“It makes it more interesting for partners to work with us, especially in developing countries,” he said. 


Rikke Nielsen Head of international relations
T: +45 8755 1502
E: rikn@via.dk