Internationalisation can be defined as ‘the intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society’ (De Wit, H, Hunter, F, Howard, L and Egron-Polak, E (2015). The process of internationalisation infuses international and intercultural dimensions in all aspects of the UFS core business of teaching and learning, research and community engagement. Internationalisation at Home, which refers to ‘the intentional integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students, within domestic learning environments’ (Beelen and Jones, 2015), has become as important as international abroad, which includes mobility of students and staff, as wells as mobility of projects, programs and providers (De Wit, 2013). 

Internationalisation has globally and in South Africa become accepted as one of the critical processes advancing the core business of universities. The South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is in the final stages of preparing a ‘Policy Framework for the Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa’ (DHET, 2017). The UFS is responding to this development and strengthened its support structures for internationalisation, including the Office for International Affairs, which is the principle office enabling internationalisation a the UFS.

The University of the Free State is a highly internationalised university, and has a proud history of international engagements. For example, in the period 2013-2016, UFS’ researchers co-authored 2007 publications with 1153 collaborating institutions. The university has more than 50 high-quality and productive institutional collaborations with universities and institutions around the world. Under their umbrella, research collaboration, staff and student mobility, as well as other projects are implemented. About 1900 international students were registered at UFS for the 2017 academic year, constituting 4, 8% of the student population.

UFS adopted its Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022 immediately after it had formulated its Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) in 2017.  Internationalisation is seminal to the UFS’ strategy, as it is considered one of the critical drivers for institutional transformation.  The university is committed to developing locally relevant and globally competitive curricula which connect to multiple knowledge paradigms. It emphasises research internationalisation and endeavours to widen researchers’ international networks, with a special focus on the African Continent.

Beelen, J. & Jones, E. (2015). Defining “internationalisation at home”, University World News Vol. 393
De Wit, H, Hunter, F, Howard, L and Egron-Polak, E (2015). Internationalization of Higher Education: Study. Published by European Parliament Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, Culture and Education. Document IP/B/CULT/IC/2014-002.

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