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The importance of history in affecting modern day policy should always be considered:

‘Internationalisation’ is the trend du jour for universities, but they would do well to consider its earlier manifestation during the British Empire’s long 19th century. As Tamson Pietsch explains, history has much to tell us about the possibilities – and pitfalls – of the phenomenon today

Across the world, higher education is increasingly characterised by talk of “internationalisation”. Taking a number of forms – from charging foreign students full-cost fees to establishing overseas campuses and offering offshore degrees – internationalisation is big business. These activities offer cash-strapped universities a way to increase their income while also advertising themselves as institutions that equip students to work in the global knowledge economy.

But to a historian of the British Empire, much of the current talk about internationalisation sounds strangely familiar. At least four of its contemporary variants can be traced back to the 19th century, when the expanding routes of British trade and empire were creating new kinds of global connections and different forms of educational entanglement. These earlier versions of university internationalisation deserve attention, for they have much to tell us about the possibilities – and the perils – of the phenomenon in the 21st century.

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