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New Toolbook to Support International University Collaborations Welcomed by British Council

Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Applied Linguistics have drawn on their own experience of running international academic projects to create a new freely available "Toolbook" to help others considering or already running such projects.

John Knagg OBE, Senior Adviser Learning & Teaching, The British Council, warmly welcomed this new free resource saying:

"At a time when many kinds of international partnerships in education are proliferating, Warwick University’s "Global People" website and resources makes a substantial contribution to thinking and practice in the area of intercultural working. As a professional in international cultural relations, I will be referring partners that we work with, both in UK and overseas, to this site. The competency framework is a useful instrument to assess and develop a team’s readiness for a large scale intercultural partnership, and the tools in the resource bank, including the international partner review and the tips for building rapport, will be extremely useful in the preparation process."

The new Toolbook has been designed for those who are planning and running international projects and who feel a need for guidance. It draws on the Warwick team’s own experience and includes case studies from a collaboration between the UK and China around the development of e-learning materials.

Dr Helen Spencer-Oatey, Director of the Centre for Applied Linguistics University of Warwick said:

"We hope that our Toolbook will assist colleagues at a time when universities are entering a new phase of particularly rapid and competitive internationalisation. The market for higher education is now truly global: potential students can make choices about study destinations from institutions in any of the five continents. The audience for research is also global, with a proliferation of domestic and international journals, a multitude of international conferences in every discipline and widely-disseminated international tables and indices ranking universities."

The Toolbook includes examples that show that even the most basic assumptions of what everyone means in such partnerships can be wrong. To quote one case study:

"Although the UK Programme Manager could speak fairly fluent Chinese, no other members of the British projects could speak any Chinese. Many of the Chinese partners spoke excellent English, but others had much more difficulty. Even when everyone spoke fluent English, partners often found they were unsure whether they were using words with the same meanings, despite the use of apparently simple words such as ‘lesson’, ‘unit’, ‘course’, ‘activity’."

It stresses the need to be mindful of different cultural approaches and demonstrates that simple adjustments are often possible to meet each others needs in such partnerships. Again, to quote one case study from the Toolbook:

"The workshop was held in Beijing, and arrangements were planned to the last detail… Speeches and presentations were given from a podium at the front, and the whole event was video-recorded. The British were again at first uncomfortable with the formality of the arrangements….However the meals and tea breaks proved a good opportunity for informal interaction, and issues were discussed and resolved without needing to bring them into the formal meetings themselves. The British were thus happy to adjust their approach to communication and group interaction accordingly."

The full Toolbook is available as a free downloadable PDF from the Global people web site from Thursday 26th February, and can also be purchased in hard copy form. It is complemented by other materials and downloadable PDFs on the website.

The Toolbook is part of the "Global People Project" and was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England

For further information please contact:

Dr Helen Spencer-Oatey, Director, Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick
Tel.024 7652 3200 (Office)
Tel. 024 7652 3808 (Direct line)

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager, Communications Office,
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL
024 76 523708 or 07767 655860 email:

PR19 PJD 24th February 2009