Position Paper on Internationalisation

Rethinking International Higher Education Curriculum: Mapping the research landscape.

The U21 TLN Steering Group commissioned a position paper on “Internationalisation” to provide an overview of the research landscape for the benefit of practicing educators across a range of disciplines.  The paper addresses a range of issues, drawing on existing research, to provide expert advice on questions such as “What is an internationalized curriculum (skills versus content and the role of pedagogy)?”, “Why does an internationalized curriculum matter?”, and “What do we know about how it can be delivered?”


Executive Summary

The landscape of research on the internationalisation of the curriculum in higher education is complex and meanings and practices in the area are vague. This paper maps out the meaning and significance of internationalisation of the curriculum and diverse ways of putting an international curriculum into practice.

What is meant by internationalisation of the higher education curriculum?

There is a lack of clarity around the concept of internationalisation of the higher education curriculum and its boundaries and further research is needed with respect to meaning and process. In particular, there is a need to construct a broader perspective on the concept, which stretches beyond just curriculum content. Equally, thinking in the area must move away from a narrow focus on international students and provide international experiences to all university staff and students so that they will perform successfully (professionally, economically and socially) within diverse contexts.

Why is internationalisation of the higher education curriculum important?

  • The 21st century university faces numerous challenges at local, regional and global levels (mass migration, environmental and geographical issues, super-diversity of the student cohorts, as well as the knowledge paradigms, the information overload, and global interconnectedness);
  • Problems and issues in the current socio-economic and geo-politicalaspects demand broader, multi-perspective understanding about the world, life and work;
  • As the most visible and significant site of knowledge creation, the university has a social responsibility to equip the members of the society with necessary competencies, knowledge, understandings, and new skills so that they can constantly negotiate the changing nature of work, the labour force, information technologies and cultural identities of people.

How can we put the international curriculum into practice?

Problems and issues

  • The term ‘inter-national’ itself is problematic in the process of teaching and learning.
  • Teaching–learning sites in the 21st century university are super-diverse and participants bring multiple perspectives, understandings and competencies to the classroom. Knowledge creation cannot be constrained within nationalities.
  • Hence, this paper suggests that the term ‘international curriculum’ should be replaced by the term ‘multi-perspective curriculum’.

Putting the Multi-Perspective Curriculum into practice

  • Continuously expose students and staff to multiple views of the world (create different socio-cultural/educational societies, promote interdisciplinary activities, harness experiences of all the students in teaching and learning, value alternative world views, use comparative approaches to teaching);
  • Encourage reflexive learning and teaching (reflexive dialogue, keeping reflexive diaries, reflexive teaching/learning logs) so that students can constantly and critically reshape their approaches and views about learning and teaching;
  • Seek to create a culture that makes students and staff feel that the university is a democratic meeting place where the encounter of diversity (in terms of gender, maturity, culture, nationality) creates opportunities to develop new competencies, knowledge and understandings.
  • Increase opportunities for collaborative learning (communities of practice, group work, workshops, seminars) which exploit the diversity within the student body.