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Internationalisation, the Global Student and Intercultural Competencies

The challenge of internationalisation

Internationalisation and globalisation have become buzzwords in the Higher Education sector and internationalisation has become a priority at the highest strategic level at most institutions. This is not merely a local trend, but one that can be observed worldwide. The aspiration to internationalise has been defined in different ways and has been implemented to a radically varying degree in different institutions. There is no single – or simple - answer to how one develops students with a global perspective or the qualities of a global citizen.

The link between greater internationalisation of UK HEIs and the integration of new elements in the undergraduate experience has not always been easily made. One reason for this, we believe, is the conceptual gap that currently exists between, on the one hand, strategic aspirations and, on the other, activities at grass-roots level. There is a danger that HEI internationalisation initiatives introduce curriculum content, exchange schemes or extra-curricular activities that are assumed to promote greater intercultural awareness without any proven link between the aspiration and the outcome.

Using a competency-based approach

The Global People team favours an approach that involves grounding any activities in a well-defined framework of personal and professional competencies. By identifying the competencies that support effective intercultural behaviour it is possible to define the broader aspiration to internationalise in terms of specific competencies and, in turn, demonstrate how those competencies will contribute to the development of more capable (and employable) students. Competencies specific to working and communicating in an intercultural context may be targeted through the introduction of new activities or through the provision of specialist support elements to existing activities. Students can thereby develop a greater awareness of their actual and potential competencies and extract more value from the intercultural experiences that they encounter. This is the approach outlined in our research paper and embodied in the Global Student Competency Framework provided here.

Related research and websites

Listed below are sites that we found useful in our research and could be of interest to anyone researching or implementing internationalisation strategies in their institution. A more extensive list of references and sources is provided in our research paper.