Administration and Communication: How Does the International Office Fare in North America?

administration in the international office

Struggling to improve your international office’s administrative processes and communication procedures? Here’s how North American universities are overcoming these obstacles.  

The complexities of effective administration and communication are obstacles for many offices, and the university’s international office is no exception.  

So, how are North American universities managing the administration and communication needs of their international offices?  

According to a recent QS survey94% of higher education institutions surveyed in North America centralize the management, approval, and tracking of international agreements and partnerships. 

This centralization allows universities to better track and manage international agreements and partnerships; staff and support services; and documentation. 

What tools do they use?  

Survey respondents stated that they used specific centralized tools to keep track of international agreements, such as spreadsheets (45%) and commercial applications (45%).  

When comparing survey results from 2019 to 2015, there’s been a clear shift from using homegrown applications to commercial applications. 

In 2015, 82% of surveyed institutions were using homegrown applications and spreadsheets to track international agreements. 

In comparison, 90% of surveyed institutions were using commercial applications and spreadsheets to track international agreements in 2019.  

How do they measure performance?  

In 2019, the international office’s top concern across surveyed North American institutions was the ability to track the performance of international partnerships and activities, which suggests they are at a very advanced stage of the internationalization initiative.  

When evaluating the performance of international partnerships, surveyed North American institutions stated that they used the following metrics:  

  • Number of exchange mobility partnerships (79%) 
  • Number of cooperative academic programs (77%) 
  • Cooperative research output (60%) 
  • Number of inbound international students (50%) 

By utilizing these metrics, institutions were able to monitor the effectiveness of international partnerships and identify areas for improvement.  

How do they communicate with staff?  

When communicating information about new international partnerships and activities, 60% of surveyed North American institutions state that staff usually learn about this information within one week to one month.  

This is a clear improvement from previous years, with staff increasingly reporting higher ratings for their institution’s ability to share information on new partnerships and activities across the institution.  

In terms of how institutions are communicating this information, surveyed international offices are using the following methods to communicate new partnerships and activities: 

  • When someone or another department makes an enquiry about this subject, or through marketing channels, such as a newsletter, web page, or event (40%) 
  • Through an executive directive, when someone from senior management instructs staff to share information (30%) 
  • Staff shares information when the new partnerships are set up by the central international office (23%) 
  • Staff shares international partnership or other activity information through marketing channels (13%) 

Overall, North American institutions rated the ability to cooperate in sharing international activity and partnership information consistently across the three survey editions (2015, 2017, and 2019).  

How do they renew international partnerships?  

When it comes to renewing international partnerships, 77% of surveyed institutions have a process in place, compared to 64% in 2017. 

Comparatively, 21% of surveyed institutions in 2019 didn’t have any procedures in place to renew international partnerships, compared to 31% in 2017.  

With most North American institutions centralizing the management, approval, and tracking of international partnerships and activities, it’s now up to international offices to invest in the right tools and applications and prioritize clear communication and information exchange. 

Discover how North American institutions are improving their international offices by downloading a free copy of the QS survey report. 

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