International re-birth a step change for delivering “local and global” impact

“All learners will have an international experience, either physical travel or through digital technologies”

It may have escaped the attention of many in higher education, but at the start of this academic year Teesside University Business School quietly rebranded as Teesside University International Business School, writes the school’s dean, Warren Harrison.

Although there was no launch event, or press release landing in editor’s inboxes, for us this represents a step change around our commitment to international education and international students.

In line with many business schools, our recruitment of on-campus international students continues to grow (currently 40% of our intake). However, it is the coming together of UK-based students, of which we still have a high proportion from our immediate region, and internationally to collaborate and learn together physically and remotely that is most significant.

Significant for our vision to be “an industry-facing business school producing the brightest talent and ideas to drive innovation, delivering economic and social impact on a local to global scale”, and for a sector that should be doing much more than just offering study abroad options to tick the international education box.

Enrolment targets are important, of course, but developing a diverse range of international partners and stakeholders to support opportunities for students including international learning opportunities is what really excites me. Prior to becoming Teesside University International Business School Dean last year, I have long embraced innovations in international education. In 2010, while working in a different school within Teesside University, I instigated a strategic partnership between the University and Hyper Island, a digital creative business school.

With presence through offices or campuses in Sweden (HQ), Brazil, the UK and US, Hyper Island offers full-time and part-time education as well as intensive courses aimed at industry executives. The Hyper Island MA programs are accredited through Teesside University and have enabled companies to innovate given the applied nature of the research projects conducted by students.

This has grown in scale significantly, now spanning two MA courses operating in three countries, and the partnership has developed to mutually enhance practice and knowledge transfer between both organisations.

Then, as Associate Dean – International for the Business School, I expanded both transnational education partnerships and international student recruitment, playing a key role in securing new provision in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Singapore. This experience is proving invaluable in delivering the ambition to establish our business school as truly international, realising global opportunities for the benefit of students (and staff) between all locations, across all of the school’s strategic activity.

We already operate partnerships with five educational institutions in five nations – three in Singapore – spanning teaching and learning, research and enterprise, but we want to do more and we want to move quickly. So, as part of our ‘New Learning Model’, all learning will be internationalised and virtual learning experiences will be commonplace.

All learners will have an international experience, either physical travel or through digital technologies, and projects will be linked to assessment. The experience of home students will be enhanced through collaboration with learners from other nations, enabling a student experience of remote working across institutions, culture and time zones.

A good example of this is the International Business Challenge created during the pandemic, alongside partners from Prague City University and SRM University in India. The aim was for students to use their entrepreneurial skills to address the needs of under-resourced communities in rural India. It involved students from all three institutions contributing to a design phase where they produced guidance documents and a structure for the competition. Then in the competition phase students from Teesside and SRM worked in teams to develop business proposals, with Prague students being invited to assist teams with research, offering feedback and facilitating communication with participating institutions. This project has now been developed to run across our provision.

Another is our work with volunteering organisation Think Pacific to provide extraordinary virtual internship opportunities that tackle international development issues and achieve real outcomes for communities. Students work remotely with government ministries, businesses or charities to implement the Fiji National Development Plan and UN Sustainable Development Goals while developing their skills, their experience and boosting their employability.

Our aim is to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable, responsible and globally connected community by producing leaders and equipping organisations with the knowledge, skills, innovation and values to achieve positive commercial, environmental, economic and social impact. The international learning community – TNE partners, corporate businesses, NGO’s and regional offices – can help us get there.

This does not come without risk. However, just as with the experiential principles of our New Learning Model, risk should not be allowed to get in the way of trying to deliver genuine change for the greater good of international education.

About the author: Warren Harrison is Dean of Teesside University International Business School.