Internationalisation of Canadian Higher Education: Troubling the Notion of Autonomy through an Examination of Policy Actors, Knowledge and Spaces
LATISS: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences
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Internationalization of higher education has been overwhelmingly embraced by Canadian universities (Beck 2009). Yet, the decentralized nature of higher education institutions, coupled with the absence of a national governing body with responsibility for higher education, creates an interesting terrain for internationalization. Institutions assert autonomy in their international strategies but processes of internationalization involve many different actors working together and the relationship between government, national organizations and higher education institutions is not thoroughly interrogated in the Canadian scholarly literature (Shubert, Jones and Trilokekar 2009). In this paper, I examine the ideas related to internationalization pursued by one Canadian organization, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). In particular, I examine the AUCC’s response to the European strategy for internationalizing higher education, which is part of the Bologna Process. Responding to concerns from Canadian institutions and government ministries regarding their potential exclusion from global markets, the AUCC took a national lead to better acquaint Canadian institutions with the Bologna reforms, declaring an urgent need to respond to the reforms taking place in the Europe (AUCC 2008a). This response was problematic: it positioned Canadian institutions’ engagement with internationalization as necessary for national economic well-being while also re-articulating the autonomous nature of institutions. I analyze the policy knowledge, spaces and actors involved with internationalization through the AUCC’s interaction with the Bologna Process to argue a deeper entangling of universities in the ideational market-based competition embedded in neo-liberal reforms, thereby creating tensions in how autonomy can be conceived in Canadian higher education.
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