Internationalisation priorities

Competing definitions of ‘internationalisation’ have been thoroughly explored in many works (see, for example, Altbach & Knight, 2007; de Wit, Gacel-Avila, Jones, 8c Jooste, 2017; Hudzik, 2014), and we do not intend to revisit them here. The term itself is confusing and contentious, and perhaps becoming outdated. For some, it has ‘come to mean something so closely connected to mar- ketisation of universities that it has lost other meanings’ (Woodin, Castro, & Lundgren, 2020, p. 212). For others, there are growing concerns about the potential harm which might result from some forms of internationalisation, particularly when the work lacks a critical focus and fails to recognise how deeply embedded it is in historical colonial and racial structures (Stein, 2019). A further concern, as explored in Chapter 7, is that some internationalisation activities are far from inclusive, and may themselves undermine work to widen participation and ensure academic equity. We recognise the importance of these critiques, and hope our work might contribute to the necessary dialogue whereby all involved in internationalisation might become better at working ‘with and through complexity, uncertainty, and complicity’ (Op.Cit., p. 8).

For our purposes in this volume, internationalisation is to be understood very simply as:

The processes through which a university seeks to increase its international


Within that wide definition, we arc concerned only with those processes which impact directly upon our students’ learning together. These include:

  • • Student recruitment - bringing students to a home campus; taking a campus or a course to students in their own country (one dimension of transnational education or TNE); and delivering a course to globally dispersed students on-line (the other dimension to TNE).
  • • Student experience - providing short-term, non-credit-bearing study, work placements or volunteering abroad; providing extra-curricular activities which bring students together in shared activities on or around the campus; providing dedicated support services for ‘international’ students, and creating an inclusive ‘campus climate’.
  • • Student learning - providing longer-term, credit-bearing study, work placements or volunteering abroad; providing local co-curricular activities which offer students elements of global learning, typically through optional/ elective courses; providing elements of global learning within their mainstream disciplinary curriculum; and replacing a local language with English medium instruction in some or all their curriculum.

Recent work in critical internationalisation studies challenges those of us working within the internationalisation field to understand the complexities and uncertainties surrounding educational change. Internationalisation, in particular, is entangled with historical and current positions of colonialism, power-over and ‘othering’, which may completely undermine its transformative objectives. Stein (2019) cautions strongly against temptations towards simplistic analysis and ‘easy’ interventions. She stresses the need to recognise, for example, that individual students might be both marginalised and advantaged through the processes we introduce. This point is particularly relevant to the discussions in this book, where we argue for internationalisation to focus on how students - as complex individuals with diverse identities, educational experiences, social and cultural backgrounds, values, world-views, personalities and aspirations - might come together to forge relationships with each other. The danger of further marginalising some in the process must not be underestimated, and the need for constant critical review of the impacts of our work is crucial.

Schuesslcr (2020) proposes an intersectional framework for internationalisation. The framework illustrates how intercultural learning by students relies upon three supportive, intersecting, elements if it is to be successful: staff who arc trained in their own capabilities to facilitate intercultural dialogue; opportunities for students to participate in intercultural experiences; and operations facilitated through partnership development and supportive quality assurance. We fully appreciate the importance of these three elements and see great value in this ‘intersectional’ lens. In this volume, however, our focus is upon learning opportunities, and the students who engage in them.

Among the various learning activities advocated within the internationalisation literature, we see the maximum potential for global literacy and inter- cultural relationship development to be within the mainstream disciplinary curriculum. Although differently experienced, that potential exists in face-to- face and virtual environments. Both can be enriched through a deliberate focus on the ways in which they facilitate learner relationships. Because mainstream disciplinary work engages all students and carries the greatest extrinsic value, we believe it is the most effective. We do, though, recognise that there is much to learn from work done within optional extra and co-curricular programmes, as explored in Chapter 7. We also acknowledge that embedding global literacy in the mainstream curriculum is probably the most challenging process. This may be why, despite much innovative work (see Foster, 2015, and related papers), it remains the most neglected area of internationalisation. Increasingly, institutions are proclaiming themselves to be ‘international’ or ‘global’ universities. Unfortunately, few we arc aware of have pursued institution-wide changes to learning and teaching with the same vigour or success as student recruitment or the wider student experience. We, therefore, suggest instead the term ‘post-national university’ for those institutions which, while enlarging their international footprint, arc mostly failing to internationalise student learning (Killick, 2017, pp. 23-36).

We are, then, specifically interested in higher education focused on embedding empowering and transformative global learning in the mainstream curricula for all our students. Such work includes the related constructs of ‘internationalisation of the curriculum’ (Leask, 2015) and ‘internationalisation at home’ (Bcelen, 2012; Beelen & Jones, 2015), and much of the ongoing work in various contexts on inclusive campuses, civic learning, decolonisation and global citizenship education. We acknowledge that the responsibility for achieving this requires consolidated, cohesive and collaborative work from all sections of a university (Hudzik, 2014), and there is a particularly pressing need for international, multicultural and diversity agendas to establish their common ground (Caruana & Ploner, 2010; Charles, Longcrbeam & Miller, 2013; Killick, 2017). In part, this relates to common interests in academic equity, and in part to common cause arising from the often forgotten intersections of local and global justice. Both can be advanced through the kinds of dialoguing which intercultural relationship development might facilitate.

Diversity and cultural capital

As noted in the introductory chapter, our term globally diverse learners encompasses the widest notion of diversity across all students, local or international. Similarly, our reference to intercultural relationships and learning is based upon a very broad understanding of ‘cultural’. Student demographics vary according to each institution’s mission, its historical development and the local and national contexts in which it sits. Nonetheless, like every individual everywhere, all students in all institutions are rooted in their cultures and carry with them aspects of diversity. Within a multicultural and global higher education, we see particular importance in the influence of cultures and communities on how each student identifies themselves and is identified by others. Although race and gender arc often at the forefront of discussions on identity, many alternative signifiers might impact upon individual student learning, and upon how they develop their relationships.

Each of our globally diverse learners, having experienced their lives in different national and social contexts, will regard aspects of their identity differently. Some will have found their has brought significant challenges or (perhaps largely un-noticed) privileges through the structural which surrounds them; for others, their may have had the strongest impacts. Crenshaw’s seminal work on intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) has taught us that our students will have suffered and/or benefitted through the ways in which multiple, intersecting, aspects of their identities have been framed. Transition into an institution which perpetuates narratives and practices of prejudice, privilege and power will fail many individuals while advantaging others. Higher education for globally diverse students must take very seriously its responsibilities towards each of them. This means seeking always to ensure that every student’s cultural identity is recognised and validated, and critiqued and challenged, through their approaches to learners and their learning. Explicitly valuing this rich diversity sets the foundational conditions for students to reach out and take the risks involved in opening any new relationship with anyone seen to be ‘other’.

The ways in which our globally diverse learners think and feel, and behave, can significantly influence how they are regarded. This can be thought of as the value which is attributed to their cultural capital within a university’s social and academic marketplaces. Bourdieu (2006/1986, p. 108 & 106) identified ctilmral capital as the ‘best hidden form of hereditary transmission of capital’, and the explanation for ‘the unequal scholastic achievement’ of learners from different social classes. In a multicultural globalising world, we would add, of learners from different cultures. Within higher education, for example, fluency in the language of instruction becomes a form of cultural capital, as does familiarity with the norms and rituals of classroom interactions, the tacit knowledge of rules governing engagement with tutors, familiarity with a specific cannon, conventions of gift-giving, the values attributed to styles of dress or styles of writing, and to the mechanisms for signalling respect, empathy or friendship. Failure to recognise and value the diverse forms of cultural capital among globally diverse learners diminishes their power over what they can do and over what is done to them.

All students carry cultural capital, but it is devalued when alternative ways of thinking or ways of behaving are interpreted by peers and tutors as deficits, rather than being valued for the opportunities they offer for everyone to build their inter-cultural capital (see Pollmann, 2013 for some elaboration on this). Globally diverse learners all have riches to share. Today’s universities are uniquely placed to facilitate the process through the development of intercul- tural relationships which break down prejudices and challenge discrimination - whoever the victims, and wherever in the world they might be. Some of the many specific learning-gains of learning among diverse others are explored in subsequent chapters.

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