ICI: the whole story

Many universities in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) have an international strategy or an international component in their institutional strategy (EAIE Barometer, 2018). They often also have a strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion, or included this in their main strategy (Claeys-Kulik et al., 2019). Related to the specific characteristics of the university and its societal context, variation can be observed in the way they promote an inclusive and comprehensive ethos of internationalisation. Only in some instances, they focus on the intersection between inclusion and internationalisation, for example international student recruitment, or international mobility for students with disabilities (MAPPed.eu, n.d.)

Several earlier Erasmus+ initiatives promote the internationalisation of segments in the university, e.g., SUCTI, SUCTIA and EQUiiP. However, the SUCTI project on the internationalisation of administrative staff (Hunter et al., 2017), the EQUiiP project on the role of educational developers in internationalisation of the curriculum (EQUiiP, 2019), and the SUCTIA explorative study on the internationalisation of academic staff (Rumbley et al., 2020), each point to the need for an inclusive, comprehensive approach to internationalisation.
Although the projects are considered Erasmus+ good practices, a review of their outcomes also uncovers some gaps. First, the student voice has not be heard, even when all projects share a vision of providing an international learning experience to all students. Second, they primarily focus on the internationalisation of the formal and/or informal curriculum or the support services. How these elements are connected and how a possible ‘hidden’ curriculum’ (Leask, 2015) excludes some students from international experiences, has been underexplored. Third, the projects primarily focus on the on-campus delivery. The potential of virtual exchange, blended mobility or collaborative online international learning for all students is not extensively considered.

The Erasmus+ INVITED project (Claeys-Kulik et al., 2019) has presented evidence on how universities can and do promote diversity, equity and inclusion. The INVITED project concludes that despite evidence of good practices on inclusivity, this ‘is not always echoed at the level of faculties and departments’ (Claeys-Kulik et al., 2019, p. 38). Moreover, limited mention has been made of promoting international learning opportunities for all students, regardless of their background or orientation. The main recommendations to overcome the barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion, refer to the need for awareness raising, staff training and exchange of experiences and good practices.

The universities in the partnership, each in their own way, are examples of the noted gaps and needs. They aware of the imbalance in the participation of underrepresented groups in internationalisation activities, who therefore are missing out on the its opportunities in terms of employment, but also in terms of developing their capabilities to act as globally responsible citizens in international and intercultural contexts. They are committed to address this by engaging in the development and implementation of the ICI methodology and approach to enhance the quality of international education for all students.
The ICI project addresses the gaps identified in the prior projects and fulfils the needs for awareness raising, staff training and the exchange of good practices.


Building on the earlier projects, the project on Inclusive Comprehensive Internationalisation (ICI) aims to address the identified gaps and needs, and provide intercultural and global learning opportunities for all students, regardless of their background or orientation and support them in their development of globally responsible professionals and citizens. The ICI project works to enhance the quality of international learning experiences by developing an inclusive comprehensive approach to internationalisation which includes virtual and blended international learning opportunities.

We will achieve this by:

  • Creating enhanced awareness and engagement at HEIs pertaining the need for an inclusive and comprehensive approach to internationalisation,
  • Enhancing the capability of actors within HEIs (academic staff, educational developers, administrative staff and students) to act as co-creators of inclusive, comprehensive approaches to internationalisation and to collaborate across the boundaries of their own area of professional expertise, academic discipline, and of different international and intercultural contexts.
  • Promoting critical approaches to internationalisation, aimed at evaluating the inclusivity of an institution and at uncovering the ‘hidden’ messages that contradict or undermine the inclusivity of the internationalisation activities.
  • Promoting the adoption of virtual and blended modalities for digital, comprehensive and inclusive approach to internationalisation ensuring long-term quality, coherence and efficiency.


At each partner university, we will establish an ICI Core Team, who will act as changemakers in their own institution. The 7 ICI Core Team members (an internationalisation leader, a teaching coordinator (academic staff), an educational developer, an administrative staff member, an ICT/Blended learning expert and two students) will join forces and be the main change agents for implementing a comprehensive and inclusive internationalisation strategy. The composition of each ICI core team ensures that the diversity within the university is appropriately captured. Moreover, as part of their role the ICI Core Team members will pro-actively reach out to underrepresented students and staff at their institutions, for example by involving student unions, clubs or community centres and related networks for staff in the initial fieldwork and the local ICI training at the institution, and by organising local Festivals to raise the awareness of ICI.

In addition to the ICI core teams we will include several university network organisations in the project as associated partners. These are the ERASMUS Student Network Finland, the Aurora Network, the EUREKA network and the SGroup. Our fifth associated partner is a Latin American university, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, who will bring in a non-European perspective. We will engage with our associated partners on consultations and disseminations sessions. Their role is to act as critical friends during the course of the project through feedback and review of intermediate project results, and as partners for dissemination of the final project results.


Within the project we will engage in the following activities:

  • Boundary crossing collaboration, in terms of professional and academic roles, national and cultural backgrounds and orientations., to share experiences and perspectives on internationalisation and its ‘hidden’ aspects that hinder or block the participation of underrepresented groups.
  • Engage a wide range of internal and external stakeholders through field work, consultation, training and dissemination activities, aimed at understanding the diverse perspectives and needs for inclusive comprehensive internationalisation, and enhance their awareness of and capability for implementing the ICI methodology with special attentions for underrepresented student groups.
  • Developing the ICI Framework as a standard of excellence for inclusive comprehensive internationalisation, and a Guideline for Self-Assessment, which universities can use to assess and monitor the inclusiveness of their internationalisation effort.
  • Creating an evidence-based approach to the project results and their impacts, to understand what works well and what needs to be improved. The evidence thus created will support other institutions who want to adopt the ICI approach to understand the underlying criteria for success and how these can be adapted to a broad range of contexts.

The main results of the project can be summarized with the following points:

  • A framework for the implementation of an inclusive comprehensive internationalization approach at higher education institutions (PR1)
  • Guidelines for self-assessment of inclusive internationalisation learning opportunities (PR2)
  • A training course that can be used to implement an inclusive comprehensive internationalization approach at higher education institutions (PR3).
  • A manual to implement the ICI Training Course. (PR4)
  • An institutional roadmap of good practices that will help those willing to implement an inclusive comprehensive internationalisation approach to do so. (PR5)

The main expected outcomes of the project are:

  • The creation of ICI core teams in all participating institutions, paving the way for others to follow suit.
  • Raised awareness of internationalisation and capability pat all participating institutions, but also, through the various multiplier events, to other higher education institutions of the countries involved in the project
  • Raised awareness of the importance of inclusivity in higher education, especially linked to internationalisation, both within the participating higher education institutions, as well as in the wider field of higher education internationalisation.
  • Raised awareness of the importance of a comprehensive internationalisation approach that includes all stakeholders (internal and external) of our higher education institutions.
  • Creation of a replicability and transferability trend around the notion of inclusive internationalisation practices, with a special focus on comprehensive internationalisation approaches. Awareness raising, reflections around inclusion and comprehensive internationalisation, and an increase in higher education institutions wanting to implement a similar approach to the methodology developed in this project with the use of the tools provided by ICI on its web site for everyone to use.
  • More open debates about inclusivity linked to internationalisation in the fora and symposia where the internationalisation of higher education is usually discussed, such as the main conferences of the field, namely the ones organised by the EAIE (European Association for International Education), NAFSA (North American association) and APAIE (Asia-Pacific Association for International Education).
  • Increased opportunities for underrepresented students to participate in and benefit from internationalisation.

Based on the project’s results and expected outcomes for the participating partners as well as the wider field of higher education internationalisation, this project can be the example that brings to practice the complex concept of comprehensive internationalisation with a very practical approach and roadmap to succeed in it, together with the very important reflection –also converted into action- of inclusivity in our higher education ecosystems.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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