The international community at Avans University of Applied Sciences now has its own headquarters, a physical space that highlights the importance Avans attaches to internationalisation. Although this term might be a little outdated. Acting president of the Executive Board, Jacomine van Ravensbergen, and strategic policy adviser, Dennis van der Pas, explain why the term ‘global engagement’ is more apt. They also explain the need for international cooperation and Avans’ views on the political developments with regard to internationalisation.

“When people hear the term internationalisation, most mainly think about English-taught education and going abroad”, explains Dennis. “But these aspects pertain to only 5% of our students, while internationalisation affects everyone. It is our ambition to train and deliver professionals who can make a difference in and for a sustainable society. To achieve this, you have to understand how the world works and you need to be involved in what is going on. Hence the term ‘global engagement’. If you explain it this way, everyone will immediately understand the relevance for all of our students, staff, the professional practice and our research.”

And Dennis knows that this means Avans has its work cut out for it in this regard. “For example by considering the question of why we think differently than people from Asian countries. You need to take all of these types of aspects into account if you want to make a difference.”

The dual objective of global engagement
Jacomine further underscores the words of Dennis: “We have a dual objective here. 1: we train our students to contribute to important transitions. As we all know, those do not end at the border. So you need to think about a global approach. You also need an understanding of other countries, cultures and the people working on those same transitions. We will not be able to achieve much change alone.”

“And 2: considering all of the geopolitical relations in the world as well as climate impact, it is obvious that global engagement begins right on your doorstep”, she continues. “We have a lot of people from other cultures and backgrounds who live and work in the Netherlands. From refugees to international students and migrant workers. Our students will encounter them more and more in their lives and in their work. And then we haven’t even mentioned research yet, which is, almost by its very nature, globally focused.”

European partnership
“So on the one hand we want to open doors and windows to the outside world, and on the other hand we want to bring the outside in more”, says Jacomine. This is one of the reasons why Avans recently joined PIONEER, a European partnership consisting of ten research universities and universities of applied sciences. “With such a permanent international network, it will become much easier to achieve our teaching and research goals, because we can help each other.”

Dennis also shares that, in January 2024, PIONEER plans to submit an application to become one of 60 European universities. “Each European university is a partnership between universities of applied sciences and research universities. The goal of the European universities is to increase the physical and virtual mobility of students and staff, and to share knowledge and research.”

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