GlobalEd is excited to present this interactive history of the concept of internationalization, dating back to the early 1900s. To navigate the history, click on the arrows to go forward or back. You can also click on resources within each slide to access articles, books, videos, and essays.

Between the World Wars, scholars and experts referred to "internationalization" of education for the first time as a method of building peace and equity following World War I.

What we today refer to as "global learning" was then called "world mindedness" or "international mindedness" and early efforts of intercultural education were linked to the popular Progressive Education Movement.

The "International Mind" Movements
Readings on the History of International Education
1919: Founding of the Institute for International Education (IIE)
Committee on Intellectual Cooperation League of Nations

1930s - Programs like the Experiment in International Living (now World Learning) expand international exchange opportunities. Watch the video below.

1950 - 1980
In the 1960s and 70s, governments and universities instituted coordinated internationalization efforts for the first time, often under the rationale of public diplomacy and international relations. Global North relationships dominated the landscape, as did Global North overseeing Global South capacity building in the form of technical assistance, university building and "modernization."

International Education Act of 1966 (Never Funded)
International Association of Universities (1950)
USAID Retrospective

The 1980s and 90s saw a birth of research and professionalization in the global education field.

Research focus areas in study abroad participation, completion, learning, internationalizing curricula, intercultural learning with international students, and language learning emerged.

In 1995, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad launched and in 1997, the Journal of Studies in International Education -- now the premier journal in the field.

By the late 1990s, experts sought to integrate
the various components of international
education into a more unified approach, which
came to be called "comprehensive

In 1994, scholar Jane Knight
articulated an influential
definition of internationalization. Institutions
formed more internationalization/international
committees and developed formal Senior
International Officer (SIO) positions.

Countries and regions also formed
internationalization strategies.

Jane Knight Definition of Internationalization
Bridges to the Future: Strategies for Internationalizing Higher Education (1992)
Internationalization of Higher Education in the United States and Europe (2002)

in 2011, NAFSA Senior Scholar John Hudzik defined “comprehensive internationalization” as an integrated and strategic process:

"Comprehensive Internationalization is a commitment, confirmed through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research, and service missions of higher education. It shapes institutional ethos and values and touches the entire higher education enterprise. It is essential that it is embraced by institutional leadership, governance, faculty, students, and all academic service and support units. It is an institutional imperative, not just a desirable possibility. Comprehensive internationalization not only impacts all of campus life but the institution’s external frames of reference, partnerships, and relations. The global reconfiguration of economies, systems of trade, research, and communication, and the impact of global forces on local life, dramatically expand the need for comprehensive internationalization and the motivations and purposes driving it."

Watch the first 10 minutes or so of this video from the University of Minnesota to understand one university's approach to "comprehensive internationalization" as faculty-driven

The late Josef Mestenhauser, a former NAFSA member, was another thought leader in conceptualizing and advancing internationalization. Mestenhauser's knowledge-based approach is now widely used.

Josef Mestenhauser Legacy
Mestenhauser and the Possibilities of International Education (2022)
Internationalizing the Curriculum (IoC)
Global Education as Unity

2010 - 2020
Global Learning

More recently, "Global Learning" emerged as a cross-cultural paradigm embracing disciplinary/academic knowledge as well as mobility and international education -- and embracing international education for all.

Critical Perspectives and De-Coloniality

Today, the field is becoming more inclusive and challenging assumptions as we collectively seek to de-colonize and challenge assumptions.

Critical Internationalization Studies Network
Race and Inclusivity in Global Education Network 
Global Respectful Disruption Summit

We will be continuing to update this history, including adding galleries, resources, and bibliographies. Please also check out “Research on the History of International Education.” If you would like to get involved in the project, please contact us at

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