Internationalisation is a term that is now widely used across all sectors, but what does it actually mean to a business school sitting in the heart of a city like Bradford?
We have always measured our internationalisation in terms of the diversity of our students boasting some 130 nationalities across the university with almost as many languages spoken. However, there is a difference between an international business school and a business school that has internationalisation. It is this distinction that will enable us all to make a contribution to our true spirit of globalisation.
As a business school we are serving our students to become the managers of tomorrow; managers that can work in a global environment, make sound business decisions and ensure that they are applying in their work place, all that we have taught them during their time as a business student. This process commences with the very first contact we have with them – the recruitment and admissions process.
We have no guarantee where the students will work in the world and as such, we cannot possibly tailor-make the business and management education they receive to suit every country in the world. However, what we can do, is even more important – we can instil the values of a truly global citizen within our students learning experience so that they can carry those into their work, no matter where they are. If we start with the appropriate selection methodology, we can ensure that we are giving out the correct message with the appropriate culture and values of the business school.
The following areas look at some of the ways in which we can make a difference in the very first steps the global citizen will take when embarking on the journey:
- Recruitment and Admissions is the first point of contact with our students. It is the point at which we engage with those students with a view to selling our services to them to attract them to our business school, when in fact they have a choice of many. Communicating with the students and their families with the relevant information is critical. Sometimes, the bog-standard brochure and website is not enough. Parents and grand-parents for example, who have worked and saved their whole lives to give their children a good start in life, need to know where they are investing that hard earned money. Would we invest our life savings and send our loved ones to a place that we didn’t know based on a brochure written in a language that we cannot read? The cost savings in not having some literature in key local languages from locations that we recruit from is not conducive to long term gain. We need to ensure that the key benefits of the business school are given to those who need them, in a language they can understand.
- Cultural differences – understanding cultural nuances in applications forms for instance is one such alignment; how to approach a student for information – for example, differentiating between the MBA student and the MSc student by recognising that one is a senior professional in his field of work and one is a fresh graduate. Also, understanding cultural differences in the language we use when recruiting students – some cultures require a strict, arbitrary approach whilst others may require a much softer, coercive approach. If we get this right, we can be assured that we are ‘speaking the native language’ with the student and we will ensure a smoother and more effective recruitment and admissions process.
- One size certainly doesn’t fit all – a production line approach will not work when dealing with human beings. Car parts or the proverbial widgets can be made on a production line but our international students cannot be added to this process if we are to win them over. Specialism, expertise, understanding, empathy, compassion and flexibility are required when dealing with our international student applications. Matching the student to a programme of study is imperative if we are to get the very best out them. Setting the expectations when introducing them to programme of study, explaining their options, such as the choice of electives and study abroad opportunities, offering them visits to our international partners for student exchange – this is what global citizenship is really all about.
- Personal contact – “You will find it on our website” is not the best form of personal contact. Over the years we have cut back on our international recruitment activities in lieu of a more digital approach. We are taking the control out of our hands and putting it in the hands student who are easily influenced – who, by the time they have found our website, have looked at a dozen others. If a student knows he is looking for Bradford after having met a member of staff or spoken to someone, he will make it his business to find us. However, the initial stage of making that personal contact with potential students is business critical in order to drive student traffic to our programmes. Telephone discussions with students are far more effective than non-personal, standard, emails.
These are just some areas where we can start ‘on the right foot’ when it comes to planning a truly global business education for our students. The rest, as they say, is where the really hard work begins… transforming our carefully selected students into global citizens through high quality education, exposure to internationalisation and expertise.