International relations, both for staff, students and alumni is integral to the history of Fjellhaug International University College (FIUC). Furthermore, as an institution with campuses in two countries, there is an acute awareness of the challenges and benefits inherent to international cooperation. Internationalisation is a natural continuation of this and will be shaped in order to improve the quality of and strengthen the ability to provide research and education relevant to students, staff and future employers.
The purpose of FIUC is to be a strong academic community within the areas of theology, mission, and intercultural studies in order to equip people for Christian teaching, preaching, and mission, and prepare students for intercultural and interreligious meetings, value based leadership and social engagement both nationally and internationally.
One of the main tools to fulfil this purpose and one of five strategic focus areas is internationalisation. International partnerships with other higher education institutions will be the core of this. These partnerships must result in mutual benefits and the best way to achieve this is through the exchange of students and staff, as well as through cooperation. The objectives are:
- Ø Be a strong theological institution of higher education, educating students from diverse geographies. This includes strength in the existing international structure, as well as strength through intra- institutional relations and cooperation, both on student and staff level.
- Ø Be a leading institution in our field, in terms of quality. This includes cooperating closely with other institutions, staff and students, in order to learn from each other, including developing high quality teaching and research.
FIUC will focus on mobility of students and staff for studies and teaching, and on mobility for cooperation projects.
In order to fulfil our purpose, we will strive to facilitate for 20% of our full time, degree-seeking, students to have had an international experience by the time they graduate. The ERASMUS+ programme will be the main tool to provide students with the opportunity for 3-12 month exchanges. In order to ensure that students gain as much benefit as possible from the experience, student exchange including ERASMUS+ programme participation will be encouraged but not limited to take place during the last year of the Bachelor programme or during the first year of the Masters programme. Participants need to be full time students during the exchange. All students, including those unable to participate in an exchange, may participate in internationalisation activities such as field trips and courses with practical placement abroad, if they are qualified for the courses in question.
Cooperation projects will be established as a part of institutional initiatives such as institutional research projects or strategic development projects. Cooperation projects are likely to start as staff-based and strategy-led projects but may grow to include students as well. The main outcomes will be linked to teaching and research, but it is our experience and expectation that this type of cooperation also fosters exchange of ideas in other and important fields, such as the question of environmental policy and practices, how to create an inclusive higher education, and how to foster civic engagement.
The goal is to offer a few, focused opportunities for international exchange and cooperation to students and staff. We aim to establish 2-3 targeted agreements with other institutions. The geographical focus is on Western Europe, the USA/Canada, and Africa South of Sahara. This does not preclude other opportunities but provides direction to our work. When choosing partners, our focus will be on institutions that complement FIUC in the areas of theology, mission and intercultural studies.
FIUC supports the objectives of the ERASMUS+ programme, and the ERASMUS+ programme is key to the realization of the FIUC strategy and institutional plans. The EPS will be posted at http://fih.fjellhaug.no/erasmus-policy-statement/. The school will work to provide the best possible experience for ERASMUS+ programme participants. The school has a designated contact for ERASMUS+ staff and students. This contact ensures programme opportunities and deadlines are properly communicated at the institution, the fair evaluation of all applications, and ensures that all necessary information is disseminated and activities are undertaken both prior to, during and after programme participation. For visiting students and staff, the contact will be the main point of contact while at the school.
ERASMUS+ programme requirements will be followed in order to ensure students and staff are given the best possible experience while abroad. This includes preparation, implementation and follow-up for outgoing students and follow-up of visiting students. Furthermore, close contact with partner institutions will be of essence in order to improve the ERASMUS+ programme experience for students and staff.
Upon return, evaluation and dissemination will be key in order to improve the programme, ensure as many students as possible benefit from the ERASMUS+ programme, and in order to market the exchange opportunities and prepare new exchange students. Programme improvement must result from regular participant evaluations.
As a small institution, focused use of resources is important. Thus FIUC does not at present plan to develop any of the following in the foreseeable future: joint masters degrees; strategic partnerships; knowledge alliances or capacity building projects. Without excluding the development of these forms of cooperation in the future, FIUC will for the time being focus on student and staff exchange in our work with internationalisation and modernisation, as well as exploring the possibility of cooperation projects for innovation and good practices.
The opportunity for international exchange can be a tool both to attract students and to improve attainment levels. Mobility will both be a part of FIUC’s marketing to potential students and will be marketed regularly to existing students. The marketing shall include information about exchange opportunities, the practical sides including how to apply for an exchange, agreements between students and the school, practical preparations, what to expect while abroad, and what to expect upon return.
Building a strong academic community should improve the quality and relevance of research, teaching and learning. This requires international partnership in order to learn and share experiences. This will be the main purpose of the ERASMUS+ programme for staff and any cooperation projects, in addition to the personal development of each individual. FIUC will follow the ERASMUS+ programme requirements and a dedicated contact person will inform and follow up both incoming and outgoing staff. Staff exchange will be of particular importance to ensure international perspectives are provided to students both at the host and at the home institution. In addition, evaluation and dissemination activities will provide an opportunity for programme improvement.
In order to achieve the objectives of ERASMUS+, there is a need to ensure that those who do not have an international experience are provided with opportunities to gain some of the same competencies as those students that have been abroad. Those who have been abroad must therefore share their experiences with fellow students, both during and after their exchange. This will provide a supplement to the international perspectives already included in study plans and provided by faculty with international experience relevant to their teaching. Dissemination activities will be part of the marketing of exchange opportunities to potential exchange students. Furthermore, by sharing their experiences former exchange students will contribute to the preparations of future exchange students.
Finally, mobility is integral to strengthening the knowledge triangle, also at FIUC. Students with international experience will be better prepared for the jobs they are qualified for upon graduation. Furthermore, internationalisation has the potential to strengthen the relevance of research at FIUC and to strengthen the relevance of teaching, from the perspectives of both students and employers.