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The rationale for the IMPI Toolbox
The IMPI toolbox has been developed for certain purposes and is guided by a particular philosophy. The designers of the IMPI toolbox feel it is important to clarify the conditions under which this toolbox has been set up and is intended to function so that all users have a clear understanding of its purpose, scope, and limitations prior to using it. Understanding the thinking behind the toolbox should enable users to extract the greatest benefit from this resource.

The IMPI project partners share the view that internationalisation has become a core component in the overall strategy of universities. However, in many cases it has developed into a goal of its own. We believe that internationalisation should not be regarded as a goal in itself but rather as an effective instrument to achieve other goals related to the central obligations of an HEI. Thus the IMPI toolbox has been developed to help users make sense of how various aspects of internationalisation can enhance the quality of education, research and civic engagement, as well as raise the visibility of the HEI and prepare students and staff to operate in a variety of intercultural and globally/internationally-oriented environments.

As internationalisation has moved in many contexts from the fringe to the core of institutional strategy, an increasing number of indicator sets have been developed to measure the success or failure of internationalisation. However, these measures often lack comprehensiveness or force an HEI to focus only on specific aspects of internationalisation (e.g. concentrating exclusively on research or using only statistical data). Rankings activities have reinforced this trend. Moreover, indicators for internationalisation have often been developed for specific institutional or national contexts, and therefore do not easily allow for broader international comparisons.

The IMPI toolbox aims to accomplish something different. It was not created to define an ultimate set of key indicators by which all HEIs, regardless of mission or profile, shall be compared concerning their performance in internationalisation. Instead it has been designed to allow for tailored-made profiling and self-assessment, and possibly inter-institutional comparison through mutually-agreed upon benchmarking exercises. It therefore aims to include a very broad set of relevant indicators which can be selected and employed at will by individual users. With this flexibility, however, there are several important caveats:

  • The IMPI toolbox cannot provide the ultimate definition of an indicator. Given the complexity and diversity of higher education around the world, the toolbox provides indicators which may to some extent include generic terms. In many cases, therefore, key terminology must be clarified and refined by the users themselves, taking into account their institution’s (or other unit’s) individual situation and goals. Thus the IMPI toolbox does not provide users with a finalised “recipe book” with ready-to-go indicators but rather a multitude of optional indicators, which must be carefully selected, and at times adapted, according to specific needs.
  • The user must actively “implement” the toolbox. That is, much like a real-life toolbox, the IMPI toolbox is only meaningful when combined with other resources, notably the specific knowledge about their own institutions (or other units) that the users bring to the table. Users cannot expect that the toolbox alone will provide definitive answers with regard to “success” or “failure” in terms of internationalisation. Instead, the toolbox must be understood as a resource designed to help users organise their thinking about indicators for internationalisation that are most relevant to them. It also provides a framework for collecting data about such indicators, which can contribute to a clearer understanding of how internationalisation is playing out within a given institution (or unit) or in comparison to other institutions. Effective use of the toolbox appears to require (at a minimum), thoughtful reflection, dialogue, and analysis related to both the mission of the institutions (or units) using the toolbox, as well as the outcomes they aim to achieve through their internationalisation efforts.