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Towards an ever-wider construct of the internationalisation of the student experience

12 Aug 2019 | David Killick David Killick, Emeritus Fellow, Leeds Beckett University, reflects on his own journey in the understanding of what the internationalisation of the student experience might mean.

This blog is part of the Advance HE Thematic Series resource for ‘The intercultural curriculum’, this is an output of the Advance HE Scottish National Priority Plan. 

The aim of the Thematic Series are to strengthen core academic capabilities of staff through the sharing of effective practice and focused theory, and to support institutional enhancement of Learning and Teaching, complementing and further building on their existing in-house work. Topics are identified by the Scottish Sector, and resources are authored and curated by colleagues from Scottish institutions, with case studies and blogs sourced from both national and international colleagues, and the resources aim to guide practitioners to relevant material and experiences to support them in developing their own teaching practice.

This brief personal reflection seeks to capture something of my own journey in the understanding of what the internationalisation of the student experience might mean. For the sake of the narrative, I describe sequential stages, but of course the reality has always been much more messy. Although I would like to use the analogy of a deepening and outward moving spiral of understanding, a better metaphor would be that of a dodgem car bouncing around the arena as I bumped into barriers within my own understanding and lunged for spaces where I could move forward. Developments of any significance were always achieved through and with supportive colleagues among a highly committed community of academic practice within the internationalisation field.

My first significant professional responsibility linked to the internationalisation of higher education was as the head of an emerging ‘department’ of English Language Teaching at a UK university. As we recruited increasing numbers of international students, some of whom would be going forward to study on mainstream undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, their wider support and academic development became a matter of concern. So, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.1 was a focus on the international student experience, including academic practice and curriculum content which could be more accessible and more relevant to international students.

As I explored this field, talked with colleagues, and weighed the work being done against a long personal interest in cross-cultural communication and living, I realised how much more our international students might be gaining in that regard than our domestic students. And so, I wanted to find ways to support domestic students in developing their capabilities in this area. So, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.2 was a focus on building international ‘study abroad’ experiences for our domestic students.

I established an institution-wide scheme, travelled to find partners, read up on impacts and good practice and saw how much faith there was in study abroad and the development of global citizenship (or similar). I undertook my own research into impacts across a range of international experiences, including long and short term study, volunteering and work abroad programmes for my PhD (Killick, 2012). I decided that much of the same impact might be achieved for stay-at-home students through work on the mainstream curriculum. So, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.3 was a focus on building cross-cultural capability and global perspectives into the university experience for all students. 

This led to a collaborative project and the publication of some guidelines for curriculum review. With a supportive institutional climate, I also began to situate this formal curriculum work within a wider range of internationalisation-related activities, and so we developed a more generic guide for practical internationalisation based upon various initiatives then on-going or in development within our own university. So, for me: 

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.4 was a foray into what is now often referred to as ‘comprehensive internationalisation’ – the alignment of activities across the whole institution to the internationalisation project.

Whole institution was needed but I saw myself as an academic, albeit always as one with more interest in effective teaching than in academic research. I was troubled by a weakness in (my) understanding about the processes contributing to student learning and development within an intercultural environment and why they appeared to find it so difficult to achieve – whether for international students, students on international study abroad programmes, or domestic students through the curriculum at home. And so, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.5 was a focus on how we can push against tendencies towards ethnocentrism and push towards a more inclusive mind-set (or heart-set).

Developing the Global Student (Killick, 2015) was as much a learning journey for me as it was an attempt to set down just how higher education might enable students to make those journeys. In researching that writing I found myself increasingly connecting with work relating to diversity education, particularly multicultural education in the USA. That work highlighted similar challenges and also the promise of similarly positive outcomes. And so, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.6 was a linking of internationalisation and diversity agendas.

A university project to embed a global outlook across the mainstream curricula provided the opportunity to define a graduate attribute which clearly included both international perspectives and inclusivity. The focus then was, very much, upon embedding related capabilities within learning outcomes across the mainstream curriculum, as illustrated in institutional guidelines and further guidelines on enabling students to develop the attribute. Another steep, and incomplete, learning curve was a first attempt to draw upon internationalisation literature and multicultural education literature directly to support work to link the two (Killick, 2017). 

In the intervening period, the many conversations held with course leaders and course teams concerning their difficulties in embedding a global outlook, highlighted the need for academic development to support them in the process. At the same time, my own institution was making very rapid advances in TNE (Transnational Education) and colleagues were faced with the challenges of working internationally, often with academics from quite different educational traditions and contexts. And so, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.7 was a focus on academic staff development for internationalisation.

I was able to combine university funding for academic development with overseas partners with my own National Teacher Fellow funding to research how colleagues in diverse institutions and contexts overseas conceptualised the key issues in learning and teaching, leading to a resource to facilitate critical dialogue among academics collaborating across cultures. At the same time, my institutional responsibilities for academic staff development had included the development of a dialogic route to Fellowships. This, along with the understandings of critical race theory and culturally relevant pedagogies emerging from exploring multicultural education literature, significantly reinvigorated my belief in the educational philosophy underpinning critical pedagogy. And so, for me:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.8 was the development of a model of critical pedagogy which might serve diverse students in diverse contexts.

Given my institutional role, this focus first resulted in a publication aimed at academic developers on developing intercultural practice (Killick, 2018b), much of which was informed by my preceding ‘versions’ of internationalisation, a tentative model for a ‘critical intercultural practice’ (Killick, 2018a). 

In reviewing all of these focuses for internationalisation, it seems to me that the principal actors are the students, and so it is surprising that little attention appears to have been given, specifically, to the development of student relationships with their peers and their learning. Coming to this conclusion was (as always!) helped by a conversation with a colleague. And so, for me now:

Internationalisation of the student experience 0.9 is investigating how we can facilitate the development of student relationships through an intercultural critical pedagogy.

This colleague and I are currently working together on a new publication with just this focus (Killick & Foster, Forthcoming). It is proving challenging. It is exciting and we hope it will be illuminating and helpful. 

At this point in time, although borders and boundaries seem to be erected all around us, internationalisation and communication technologies are making possible the emergence of global communities of academic practice. I suggest that if the academic community can find the time (and, let’s be honest here, the inclination) to engage in critical dialogues and reciprocal learning among diverse peers in diverse contexts, we may see the emergence of:

Internationalisation of the student experience 1.0 – and I look forward to learning what that might be and where it may lead but I suggest it must include, at least, a focus upon:
• the international student experience
• international ‘study abroad’ experiences
• cross-cultural capability and global perspectives
• the alignment of activities across the whole institution
• a push towards a more inclusive mind-set
• the linking of internationalisation and diversity agendas
• academic staff development for internationalisation
• critical pedagogy for diverse students in diverse contexts
• the development of student relationships

Killick, D. (2012). Students as Global Citizens: Being and becoming through the livedexperience of international mobility. Saarbrcken: Lambert Academic 
Killick, D. (2015). Developing the Global Student: Higher education in an era of 
. London: Routledge.
Killick, D. (2017). Internationalization and Diversity in Higher Education: Implications 
for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.
Palgrave: Houndsmill.
Killick, D. (2018a). Critical intercultural practice: Learning in and for a multicultural 
globalizing world.
Journal of International Students, 8(3), 1422-1439.
Killick, D. (2018b). Developing Intercultural Practice: Academic Development in a 
Multicultural and Globalizing World.
Abingdon: Routledge.
Killick, D, & Foster, M. (Forthcoming). Learner Relationships in Global Higher 
Education: Critical Pedagogy in a Multicultural World
. London: Routledge.

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