As the president of a university where ‘crossing borders is in our DNA’, Fernando León Garcia urges institutions to ensure that new e-mobility programmes are more than just a pale reflection of study abroad.
By Fernando León García for Times Higher Education.
The global pandemic has forced us all to reassess our educational models. Yet we must also use the crisis to reaffirm the long-established benefits of internationalisation and embed it even deeper within higher education.
Internationalisation in higher education has a history of contracting or plateauing amid global crises and then expanding again in times of recovery. We saw this happen after the fallout from the 9/11 attacks in the US and following the global economic downturn of 2008. We can expect a similar contraction and recovery process in this case, but it will also have its own distinctive pattern.
The need for virtual and remote learning – a current public health necessity – is pushing all institutions to become more digitally fluent. As we continue to promote global and diverse perspectives among our students, e-mobility experiences will very likely become an immediate alternative to traditional study-abroad programmes, whether for short-term study, a longer period or even a full degree.
Without question, approximating cultural immersion virtually will be a challenge, but what we learn by doing so might help us reshape the future of international education as we know it today. What we build now will not – and should not – replace traditional student mobility, but it might provide a paradigm shift that helps us rethink international education in a broader perspective.