Managing & prioritising

The last activities were about staffing structures. Some of the types of international activity identified at the start of this module will have a clear place in the structure, eg student recruitment is probably handled by the international office. However others, such as staff mobility, may not be identified with a particular office or post. The presence of dedicated posts, policies and procedures can tell us quite a lot about the relative importance that institutions attach to promoting and regulating different types of activity.

John Davies* suggests a grid model for understanding the relative priority institutions give to international activities. Some are "core business", while others are seen as low priority (central v marginal axis). Some are strategically managed, while others are bottom-up initiatives developed by individuals (systematic v ad hoc axis).


Try to place each of your institution's international activities on the grid below according to how your own institution works. If an activity doesn't apply, you can drop it in the bin. Click on the "add activity" box to add an additional one. Click on the grey "i" in each corner for more on the significance of each way of organising activities. If you are very new to the institution, you might want to do this exercise with one or more colleagues to get more of a feel of how the institution functions.


Ad Hoc



i i i i

Activities in the central/ad hoc box are valued but less strictly controlled, perhaps if they are seen as lower risk or as requiring devolved ownership. Research partnerships between academics might fall into this category.

Activities in the central/systematic box are likely to be tightly controlled and probably well-resourced and highly visible. In most institutions international student recruitment would fall into this category.

Activities in the marginal/ad hoc box are probably quite low priority and poorly resourced. Staff mobility often falls into this category.

Activities in the marginal/systematic box are controlled but not prioritised. This may be to manage risk or to maximise benefit from a less well-established area of work. An institutional with very limited activity in transnational education might put that work in this category.


What light does this cast on how your institution values and resources different activities?

There is no right or wrong answer about how important activities should be or how systematically they should be managed. However, the mix of strategic control and support which activities receive may affect their success, along with other factors such as organisational size, culture and resources. We will come back to this in the next module when we look at international strategies.