Postsecondary education institutions are increasingly affected by their external environment and more specifically, global forces. Among such forces is the acknowledged global labor market of education, fierce competition between educational systems, and the need for colleges and universities to expand their resource base. In response to such forces, college administrators are challenged to steer institutions toward a more global focus and thus internationalization is becoming central in the agenda of U.S. colleges and universities.
This study examines the organizational structures that help shape internationalizing efforts of postsecondary education institutions. Informed by strategic management and institutional theories, the study advances the concept of institutional design to fill a gap in the literature, which has left unexamined the role of organizational structures and agents in internationalizing efforts. The study is based on a simple random sample of 157 U.S. research universities, according to the Carnegie classification.
Informed by the literature, the study proposes the degree of internationalization as dependent variable, which is comprised of ten relevant measures and indicators. A factor analysis of the ten measures resulted in three outcomes variables: 1) the international openness, 2) the international focus of academics, and 3) the international attractiveness of postsecondary education institutions. Grounded in the literature, the study proposes a research model, which operationalizes institutional design of postsecondary education institutions in two categories: 1) organizational structures, which includes leadership, staff, administrative units, and the concentration of structures and 2) international networks, which includes the type of international network and the network size.
Through regression analyses, the study offers empirical evidence that some organizational structures are positively associated with internationalization processes of postsecondary education institutions. Among such organizational structures are: 1) the presence of a specialized leadership for championing internationalization processes, 2) the presence of shared governance that provide oversight to internationalizing efforts, 3) adequate staffing levels, and 4) the size of the international network.
The study suggests policy implications and opportunities for future research. The findings suggest that administrators must focus on two critical dimensions to secure progress in the international agenda of postsecondary education institutions. First, they need to focus on generating positive routines and capabilities that help institutions to respond more effectively to international pressures. Second, they need to put in place adequate organizational structures that help these routines to generate and to entrench in the core of the organization.