Internationalization of higher education has become one of the most important policies for institutions of higher education worldwide. Though universities are international by nature, the need for intensified quality activities of international nature has promoted internationalization to be under spotlight of researchers, administrators and policy makers and to be an area for research. Each institution follows its certain way to govern its international affairs. Most Universities, especially in the 'Developed World' started to plan it strategically.
This study explores the meanings and importance of internationalization especially that it means different things to different people. It also studies the rationales behind internationalizing higher education. It focuses on the four main prevailing rationales; political, cultural/social, economic/financial, and academic on both national and institutional levels. With the increasing need to strategically plan, the study explores internationalization strategies in terms of how to develop them, what are their approaches and types, and their components and dimensions.
Damascus University has witnessed an overwhelming development of its international relations and activities. Therefore, it started to face a problem of how to deal with this increasing load especially that its International Office is the only unit that deals with the international issues. In order to study the internationalization phenomenon at Damascus University, the 2WH approach, which asks the what, why, and how questions, is used and in order to define the International Office's role in the internationalization process of the University, it studies it and the international offices of Kassel University, and Humboldt University in Germany, The University of Jordan, and Al Baath University in Syria using the 'SOCIAL' approach that studies and analyses the situation, organization, challenges, involvement, ambitions, and limitations of these offices. The internationalization process at the above-mentioned Universities is studied and compared in terms of its meaning, rationales for both the institution and its academic staff, challenges and strategic planning.
Then a comparison is made among the international offices of the Universities to identify their approaches, what led to their success and what led to their failure in their practices. The aim is to provide Damascus University and its International Office with some good practices and, depending on the experiences of the professionals of the case-studies, a suggested guidance to the work of this Office and the University in general is given.
The study uses the interviews with the different officials and stakeholders of the case-studies as the main method of collecting the information in addition to site visits, studying their official documents and their websites. The study belongs to qualitative research that has an action dimension in it since the recommendations will be applied in the International Office.
The study concludes with few learned lessons for Damascus University and its International Office depending on the comparison that was done according to a set of dimensions. Finally a reflection on the relationship between internationalization of higher education and politics, the impact of politics on Middle Eastern Universities, and institutional internationalization strategies are presented.