The main reason for writing this paper was the systematic determination of the state of internationalization of public higher education for the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). This paper aims to compare the state of internationalization with the results of comparative European and world research in higher education in order to determine the direction of public universities in B&H following globalization and connection with the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), as well as to determine future steps for mandatory inclusion into global higher education flows. Furthermore, the aim was to determine the treatment of mobility and student exchange programs and the ways of recognizing acquired qualifications abroad.
The paper opted for a research study by conducting questionnaires that were divided into questions of elimination, questions of qualification and questions of the main survey. A total of 2,822 final year students were surveyed, as well as 386 representatives of the management of public universities. Within the paper, 25 different SWOT analyses of internationalization were performed by public universities, ministries and state/regional agencies, which was the basis for the SWOT analysis of the internationalization of B&H public higher education. The data were supplemented with a qualitative analysis of the obtained results compared with the International Association of Universities (IAU) and European Association for International Education (EAIE) research, as well as an overview of the most significant achievements in the field of internationalization of higher education.
The paper provides empirical results on the barriers of students to study abroad, the existence of strategies and indicators for internationalization, the benefits of internationalization, internal and external drivers of internationalization and the potential risks of internationalization. These empirical results for B&H were compared with complementary IAUs and EAIE research and provided the basis for SWOT analysis of internationalization, development of institutional internationalization strategies and indicators, B&H recognition model, new criteria for accreditation with emphasis on internationalization and criteria for assessing internationalization. The paper suggests that virtual mobility and internationalization at home are future logical trends of development internationalization in B&H.
Suggestions for future research related to the examination of identified potential risks to the management of the internationalization of individual institutions, as well as to future comparisons of the new state of internationalization of higher education in B&H with current similar research in Europe and the world. Regarding the limitations in the research, it was possible that a larger number of participants participated in the survey with questionnaires, although the target set at the beginning of the survey was achieved.
Most of the research results are the basis for improving the practical situation in the internationalization of public higher education in B&H. The paper presents a special chapter (undertaken improvement activities) dedicated to the practical implications based on the conducted research and comparison of results. Considering that this is a preliminary work related to the internationalization of higher education, based on the researched results, the context of the internationalization of public higher education in B&H was changed by the activities described in the mentioned chapter. The contribution to these activities was given by the approved project of the European Commission (EC) “strengthening of internationalization in B&H higher education” - STINT. Also, the research results of this paper offered a comparison with the research results of research conducted by IAUs and EAIE.
Different research groups participated in this research study: students, teachers, administration, representatives of ministries and state/regional agencies. All target groups supported the implementation of the questionnaire, the development of SWOT analyses and various reports, as well as the undertaking of various practical activities. In accordance with the research results, all these target groups were subsequently educated on issues of internationalization and recognition of qualifications. Stronger and better internationalization certainly increases the social impact on future students, higher education funders, as well as other interested stakeholders.
This is a preliminary study whose main goal was to review the state of internationalization and to identify the most important undertaken activities in B&H. For the higher education area in B&H, the research study is new and has undertaken internationalization activities, but on the other side, in other developed European countries, similar studies and activities are not new. For the field of higher education in B&H, this work and research results are important because they will be the basis for future internationalization activities and will also serve as a basis for future activities to be undertaken in this field. The value of this paper is significant for both internal and external stakeholders of higher education.