HULT International Business School
Series 4: Publication 1
Our research forms part of the Leadership Foundation membership benefit. Hard copies of this Stimulus Paper have been distributed to all member institutions and the PDF is available for members to download by clicking the image below.
Across the higher education sector, strategic plans celebrate the internationalisation of higher education. Marketing collateral promises the realisation of global citizenship to students, to their parents and to their future employers alike. Internationalising the curriculum, or as it is sometimes called, internationalisation "at home" presents as a universal aspiration and the means of creating those global citizens who seem to lie at the heart of the modern university.The International Association of Universities (IAU) in its recent "call for action" on "Affirming Academic Values in Internationalization of Higher Education" encapsulates the position nicely, identifying as a key principle for Universities, the pursuit of
"...internationalization of the curriculum as well as extra curricula activities so that non-mobile students, still the overwhelming majority, can also benefit from internationalization and gain the global competences they will need."
The international dimension of curricular and co-curricular activity is integral to John Hudzik’s concept of ‘comprehensive internationalization’ (Hudzik, 2011) and sits at the core of Jane Knight’s definitions of the internationalisation of higher education ‘The process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education’ (Knight, 2008, p 21)
Indeed there is no shortage of examples to illustrate the importance that the higher education sector ascribes to the internationalisation of the curriculum. As with so many things that are almost universally regarded as "good", real challenge lies not at the abstract level but at the concrete level. How does the vision get translated into practice and what does it mean for those who are responsible for delivery at an operational level? Articulating a need and desire to prepare students to live and work in a globalised world is easy. Putting it into practice gives rise to endless questions, ambiguities and difficulties. And there is a relative shortage of research that tries to address such issues.
This study, by Nicola Sayers, moves us away from the simple and occasional glib statements about what academic and student support staff should be doing, to document the lived experience of those who believe that they are delivering an international curriculum. For UK higher education, the context is a distinctive one - namely the staff at two private institutions with a level of student diversity that probably does not exist anywhere else in the sector. But it is this very distinctiveness that creates the opportunity to learn from and reflect on the experiences of those delivering education in these institutions.
The paper leads us through 3 key areas - defining the international curriculum, the challenges associated with implementation and the key success factors - and illustrates reality at each stage by drawing from the experiences of academic staff from both institutions. In her discussion of each of these themes, Sayers explores many of the genuine challenges that confront practitioners. A common discourse focuses on internationalising the curriculum as being about both skills and content. The inclusion of skills serves as a potential refuge for those who believe that their subject content is difficult to internationalise. And yet many of the so-called "international skills" are no different to the skills that should be developed through any curriculum (communication, teamwork, mutual respect, ability to reflect and so on). And to what end should such skills be developed - narrowly for reasons of employability or broadly because of the potential to make the world a "better place".
Implications for pedagogy are often a particular challenge. Those who wish to internationalise their curricula are often exhorted to exploit the resources at their finger-tips - the international students in their classrooms. But such an approach is not without risk - not least for the teacher because of the potential loss of control. But of equal importance - at least in many subject areas is "navigating the tension between cultural relativism and universalism".
Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly, when identifying success factors, the research highlights the importance of the essential ingredients of any successful change initiative - the need for institutional support and leadership, the need to secure staff engagement the need for guidance without prescription and the importance of adaptability, dialogue and reflection.
This paper is not a manual for anyone who wants to know "how to do it"; it is a thoughtful and reflective analysis of the experience of "trying to do it". And there is much to learn from those experiences. In some senses, it may also be a source of reassurance - there are no easy solutions. But understanding and reflecting on what others have done can provide invaluable insights for anyone looking to develop their own practice in relation to an internationalised curriculum.
Professor Christine Ennew
University of Nottingham
‘Internationalisation’ is a current buzzword in universities globally. Alongside institutional initiatives such as international partnerships, international campuses and study abroad schemes, there is an increasing interest in the role of the curriculum in internationalisation. However, the rhetoric is seldom matched by a detailed discussion of what an ‘international curriculum’ actually means. This think-piece explores this question by looking in-depth at two case study institutions, HULT International Business School and Richmond University, both leading providers of an international education in the UK. Faculty members at each of these institutions were interviewed regarding their experiences of what an ‘international curriculum’ means in practice, what works well and what some key challenges are. The hope is that the choice of these two explicitly international institutions as case studies may offer some lessons, both in terms of good practice and understanding the challenges involved, for UK universities seeking to internationalise their curricula. The analysis of the interviews is written so as to be of use to those in leadership positions and attempts to highlight key lessons and points for consideration.