Mapping Internationalization 2016: Updates, Improvements and What We Hope to Learn

February 12, 2016

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By Robin Helms

UPDATE (April 20, 2016): The deadline for the 2016 Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses survey has been extended until May 3, and we need your help to reach our goal. As I noted below, we initially sent the survey by email to provosts at institutions around the country in February. Earlier this month, we reached out to international education leaders at institutions from which we had not yet received responses. And last week, we mailed hard copies of the survey in order to provide additional flexibility for respondents.

Please send me an email, asking if your institution has completed the Mapping survey. I’ll check our records and let you know the status—if the survey has not been completed, I’ll work with you to figure out where we should send it on your campus and how best to follow up to make sure it is submitted.


A lot can change in five years. Especially when it comes to campus internationalization.

ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement just launched the fourth iteration of our Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses survey, which will build on data we collected in 2001, 2006 and 2011. The purpose of the Mapping study is to understand the landscape of higher education internationalization in the United States at a particular moment, and also to monitor trends and gauge progress.

Although we have a few months of data collection and analysis ahead of us before we’ll know definitively what has changed in the last five years, the process of revising the survey was revealing in and of itself. To maintain the integrity of the data and allow longitudinal analyses, we need to keep a good portion of the survey questions the same over time. But there is also room for some level of modification in order to address new issues and facets of internationalization that have emerged in recent years – and remove questions that are no longer relevant.

So what did we change this time around? And what are the developments in internationalization that these changes reflect?

Some key points:

We use the term “education abroad” instead of “study abroad.” Sometimes accepted terminology seems to change just for the sake of change, but in this case, we think the nuances are important. “Education abroad” accounts for service learning, internships, research experiences, and other non-classroom-based activities that take students to other countries and most definitely contribute to their learning and development. We also ask specific questions to gauge the prevalence and priority of these various education abroad activities.

Our questions about international engagement and partnerships are more detailed. In 2001, relationships with counterparts abroad were barely on the internationalization radar for most institutions. In 2016, though, partnerships are ubiquitous, and many colleges and universities are focusing on how best to utilize these arrangements to advance institutional priorities. Among other related issues, the new survey addresses strategic planning for partnerships; whether institutions have a physical presence in another country and what form it takes; and if they have created a “partnership director” position to manage global engagement activities.

We are disaggregating information on funding trends by source. A somewhat surprising finding from the last Mapping survey was that between 2006 and 2011—a time when the recession was wreaking havoc on campus budgets nationwide—overall funding for internationalization remained relatively stable. This time around, we’re seeking to better understand the funding mix that underpins internationalization initiatives, including internal institutional support, government (state, federal, and international) grants, alumni giving, and other private donations, as well as how these funding levels have changed in recent years.

The survey will address emerging support structures for international students. Looking at the 2011 survey data, we were troubled to find that while there were notable increases in international student recruitment, efforts to support these students once they arrived on campus remained static. We are hoping to see improvements in this area in the 2016 survey and have added questions about intensive English and “pathways” programs, which are gaining visibility as a way to smooth international students’ transition to the United States and facilitate academic and social integration.

The survey is streamlined, and we’ve avoided reinventing the wheel. The Mapping survey is long—it has to be, to some extent, in order to be comprehensive—but we didn’t want to make it any more of a burden for respondents than it has to be. So we also did some cutting, eliminating questions that are addressed by other well-established research. For example, the State Department’s Open Doors study, administered by the Institute of International Education, collects national data on student mobility numbers. The Association of International Education Administrators gathers information about job titles and reporting lines for “senior international officers.” Our next Mapping report will cite these studies rather than try to replicate their findings.

We are excited about these updates, and are eager to see the full story yielded by the data. In order for that story to be complete, however, we need robust participation in the study.

The Mapping survey was sent to provosts at degree-granting, accredited U.S. institutions earlier this week. If you are a provost, please complete the survey, or contact us if you did not receive it. If you are a senior international officer or institutional researcher, please provide your provost with any information she or he requests in order to complete the survey.

And if you’re a faculty member, student, administrator, or anyone else with an interest in higher education internationalization, please help us spread the word about the Mapping study, and stay tuned for the full report due out in early 2017.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

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