Supporting social justice through internationalisation: the case of Welsh higher education

Internationalisation has increasingly moved from the periphery to the centre of university activity (Brandenburg and de Wit 2011, Jiang Nan and Carpenter 2013), and is often used as a measure of performance in an increasingly globalised system of higher education (Soliman 2018). Definitions of internationalisation are subject to different interpretations (Knight 2003, 2011, 2012) and therefore this has implications for how it is reflected in practice.  

Within Wales, this has coincided with the devolution of education policy since 1999 to Welsh Government whose policy since that point clearly identifies education as the main vehicle for implementing change and supporting prosperity. The regulatory body HEfCW (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales), identified universities as more important to the economy of Wales than for universities elsewhere in the UK (HEfCW 2015), indicative of the onus placed on them to drive the national civic mission within their activities.  In 2023 HEfCW will be replaced with the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), providing strategic direction for HEI’s with a vision underpinned by the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, a unique piece of legislation binding to public bodies, requiring a commitment to both national and global sustainability. 

Additional challenges include future prosperity, post-Brexit (Courtois and Veiga 2020) and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Nevertheless, universities are businesses within their own right with their own institutional missions and stakeholders in addition to reflecting the values and needs of their home country. This paper will utilise the ideological constructs of idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism as outlined by Stier (2004) to provide the theoretical lens through which to examine the potential implications for Welsh higher education in promoting social justice and graduate prosperity to learners within Wales.