The Internationalization of Higher Education Institutions: A Critical Review and a Radical Proposal

47 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2011

Date Written: November 4, 2011


We provide a critical review of the process called the “internationalization of higher education institutions” (HEI) with a closer look at the case of business schools. After offering an alternative definition of this phenomenon and examining the forces that drive international initiatives, we explain what we call the “internationalization paradox”: the observation that despite evidence that many of these initiatives fail to deliver what they promise, they nevertheless remain at the top of the agenda of heads of HEIs. We then develop a framework that identifies alternative models of internationalization. Based on this framework we sketch out a model of the truly global HEI whose mission is to learn from the world rather than teach the world what the institution knows. Our central thesis is that it is unlikely that HEIs will be able to transform themselves into truly global HEIs because of historical and organizational barriers rather than a shortage of resources or a lack of visionary leadership. We conclude that most HEIs should refrain from claiming that their aim is to become global institutions. They should instead focus on the successful implementation of an import-export model of internationalization that calls for initiatives such as the internationalization of the curriculum, the creation of student and faculty exchange programs, and the participation in international academic and research partnerships. Any attempt to transform themselves into truly global institutions is unlikely to succeed and may divert them from their fundamental mission to educate their home-based students and help them become effective global citizens.

Suggested Citation

Hawawini, Gabriel, The Internationalization of Higher Education Institutions: A Critical Review and a Radical Proposal (November 4, 2011). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2011/112/FIN, Available at SSRN: or

Gabriel Hawawini (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Finance ( email )

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