Workshops on internationalisation for support staff 

Support staff play a crucial role in ensuring that students feel welcomed, included and treated equitably throughout their time at our institutions. Find out what we do to support these key players!  

Students expect the same level of knowledge, understanding, and care from all services within the university. Support staff are a key player and therefore require support in developing the intercultural competences and knowledge they require in order to have difficult, yet constructive, conversations to support their students in navigating critical incidents. This is even more relevant in the educationally-mobile landscape that makes up higher education today.

Esko Koponen on support services as key players in internationalisation

Supporting the students' journey

When discussing the internationalisation of the curriculum, we refer to the different aspects of a student’s journey during their time at university involving both the informal and the formal curriculum. The support services at a university are a key element in the student’s journey, therefore, the importance of involving them and learning from their expertise is a crucial factor in the success of integrating internationalisation into the curriculum of a university. To reach the support services we created a tool, a series of workshops, where we met up with a group of administrators to discuss internationalisation and the different elements that fall under this term.

Systemic University Change Towards Internationalization” (SUCTI)

In 2016, an Erasmus+ Strategic Project, called “Systemic University Change Towards Internationalization” (SUCTI), was set up to examine what tools, if any, are available for the involvement of the administrative staff into the process of internationalisation. The findings of the SUCTI project, presented in 2019, confirmed that the involvement of the administrative staff is crucial for internationalisation to be fully integrated into campus activities, both inside and outside the classrooms, but also showed the lack of available training or resources in this area. 

Adapting SUCTI to KI

workshop för adminsitrativ personal
Workshop in internationalisation for administrative staff. Photo: Karen Gustafsson

Following these finding the consortium created a set of interactive workshops, where support staff from a university could be trained to develop workshops on how to internationalise their colleagues. The authors participated in the pilot version of this training.  Following the training, a series of workshops were held at Karolinska Institutet for the different areas within the support services. The workshop was adapted to the audience with both theoretical and interactive elements.  

The training was split into two mornings covering the following subject areas: 

  • What is internationalisation?  
  • Who are our students? 
  • Elements of cultural competence 
  • Available tools and resources  
  • How can you, the support services, contribute to Internationalisation of your university? 

The   participants of the workshops from within the support services were recruited through an existing channel at KI – the network for KI student counsellors and the network for administrators, both groups hold regular meetings.  So we first presented an outline and the goal of these workshops and then followed up with an invitation to register to our workshop on their network webpage. 

Example of registration page. 

Diagram som visar utvärdering av workshops för adminstratörer.
Graph showing results from survey on workshops for adminsitrative staff. Photo: N/A

Feedback from participants

From the feedback during and after the workshop, the consensus was that this is an interesting and important initiative. The feedback also highlighted the importance of follow-up and more in-depth dialogue and training, to reach the goals set by KI but also as competence development for the KI staff, to create a more professional environment on the KI campuses.   

The following questions were asked after each workshop and from the results we saw a steady climb towards in reaching the goal set out in the workshop. We wanted to evaluate if they felt that the content  of the workshop was relevant and useful to their role at KI,  if the workshops gave them a better understanding of the process of Internationalisation and their role in this process, and if we had succeeded in providing them with tools to integrate internationalisation into their daily work without added to their already heavy workload.  The scale was 1-5 (5 the highest score) The graph shows results from four workshops' surveys and the blue bar is the first workshop and the yellow the fourth workshop.

  1. To what degree has the content of the workshop been relevant.
  2. To what degree has the content of the workshop has been useful.
  3. The workshop has contributed to achieve a better understanding of what internationalisation at KI is all about.
  4. The workshop has contribute to give me a better understanding of what Internationalisation at KI is all about.
  5. The workshop has contribute to give me a better understanding of my role within the process of internationalisation
  6. The workshop has helped me understand how I can integrate internationalisation into my daily work
  7. The workload during the workshop was manageable.

Interest home and abroad

This workshop has generated some interest both nationally and internationally.  Nationally for example through the UNSI network which is a network of all heads of International Relations offices at all the different universities around Sweden. A sample of our workshop was given at one of the network meetings which generated interest and recognition of the importance of involving the admin staff in the developments and strategies the university embarks on, utilising the vast amount of knowledge and expertise found within the admin staff of any HEI, and the recognition of their key presence in both the informal and hidden curriculum of a students´ journey in HEI.  

These workshops have also been offered (and adapted) to admin staff at our partner universities, where online workshops held in English were held to counterparts in different countries all over the world, which again generated interest and recognition of the importance of admins staff in the implementation of a strategy at a HEI. 

A summary of different activities can be found on Internationalising support services on the Staff portal.