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The intercultural curriculum

Advance HE Scotland Thematic Series: Summer 2018-19 The Advance HE Scotland Thematic Series focuses on specific learning and teaching themes. It brings together existing select Advance HE and non-Advance HE resources and sources new case studies of practice. It aims to guide practitioners to relevant material and experiences to support them in developing their own teaching practice.

Authored and curated by Dr Catriona Cunningham, Academic Development Partner, University of Sterling.

This Thematic Series resource 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 and aim to guide practitioners to relevant material and experiences to support them in developing their own teaching practice.

What is the intercultural curriculum?

The intercultural curriculum is many ways an aspirational curriculum, aiming to challenge the dominant western approaches to learning and teaching and make explicit the value of our individual diverse learner experiences. Underpinned by scholarly thinking of interculturalism in higher education, this resource seeks to explore the changing shape of our curriculum across the western world in ways that help us redefine the purpose of learning and teaching in higher education in a time of growing polarisation and distrust. The intercultural curriculum can offer hope in times of darkness (Bengsten & Barnett, 2017).

What is this Thematic Resource?

Each of these resources offer through podcast, blogpost, think piece and reflection a different perspective of what the intercultural curriculum means and enables. What each of these resources have in common is the interconnection between the personal and the professional persona of the teacher – there is a strong sense of identity that lies at the heart of the intercultural curriculum for all. Given the impossibility of defining the intercultural curriculum, this resource instead seeks to offer four different ways of approaching learning and teaching with an intercultural mindset. We could be stronger and argue that in fact this is the only way to approach learning and teaching given the diversity of our higher education landscapes. Each perspective offers a personal story that explains how interculturalism – as an approach, a process and an identity shaped that teacher and helped them become who they are today. Yet each invites you in to share their story, and offers ideas and principles to help you think about how you are also shaping intercultural curricula in your own context. The intercultural curriculum is closely connected to Internationalisation of the Curriculum, Equality & Diversity and Transnational Education and resources on these pages may also be useful when thinking about why and how you might create your own intercultural curriculum. The intercultural curriculum is questioning, about the individual but also about exchange across and between learners and teachers. This resource shows the way the personal interweaves with the professional, and also the way in which the single story is challenged by us all.

This resource is a useful one to consider for the UKPSF dimensions A2 and A4 but especially for the Professional Values V1 and V2 as we really encourage you to reflect critically on the diversity of your learners and the impact on how you teach as well as your curriculum.

Examples of the Intercultural Curriculum

There are overlapping themes, as identified above, but each resource highlights a different aspect of the intercultural curriculum, to enable you to reflect on how it might work in your context.

The importance of confidence

Dr Marita Grimwood draws on her years of experience in academic development consultancy where she has worked in a number of different institutions with academic colleagues to enhance their intercultural skills. Here she shows how important it is for individual colleagues to be able to develop their confidence in working with different learners, regardless of their own backgrounds. Her sensitivity here is highlighted bearing witness to her own intercultural competence, but also thereby revealing why the intercultural curriculum matters so much. She argues convincingly that in our diverse classrooms, where we are often teaching large groups, we cannot hope to engage with each learner as an individual or even know what their own stories are. However, by developing openness as a teacher and by being human (link to resources on role of affective education), we can create conditions in our classrooms in which respectful exchanges can occur. The intercultural curriculum is therefore knowledge, and guiding principles but also about being aware of yourself as a teacher, of your own assumptions and being confident that you are open to who your learners are, as well as what they can teach you. From this perspective, being a critically reflective teacher is key to creating the intercultural curriculum. However, there is also an important link to Equality & Diversity and it is clear that the intercultural curriculum is underpinned by the values of our teachers and learners.

Encouraging inclusive practice – a practical approach by Dr Marita Grimwood

Equality and Diversity guidance and resources


Guiding Principles to strategic creation of the intercultural curriculum

This resource traces the route Professor David Killick has ploughed in terms of using the intercultural curriculum as a process to initiate institutional change and it is interesting that in his piece, he charts the move from institution wide strategic impact to this point in his career where he is focusing back on the individual learner relationships that are so critical to consider in the intercultural curriculum. The principles he outlines in his resources are related to his own personal journey and yet he offers them up as a set of principles that could be reshaped in another context. Could this be the start of a manifesto?

This brings us to another overlap here with the role of students as co-creators in the intercultural curriculum, an area of work that has been explored in Wendy Green’s global learning project (link) where we can find useful case studies showing how we can involve students in this process.

Towards an ever-wider construct of the internationalisation of the student experience: A personal journey by Professor David Killick

Student engagement through partnership in higher education

Principal Fellowship

Context is everything

Professor Catherine Manathunga also traces her own very personal journey as a way to reflect on what the intercultural curriculum looks like from her perspective and also charts a shift away from the term ‘interculturalism’ with its implicit meaning of ‘between’ and  advocates instead for the use of the term ‘transculturalism’, with its connotations of ‘crossings’. Her research focus has been on the supervisory relationship and she argues passionately and persuasively in favour of using different research methodologies, such as life histories and arts-based methodologies to enable teachers, learners and researchers to identify their stories, their positions and assumptions. Her blogpiece comes alive with metaphors of movement and of mapping. Her story, above all, reveals how the intercultural curriculum is at once the personal, political and professional interwoven into a pedagogy that embodies openness.

A transcultural doctoral curriculum? Blog from Professor Catherine Manathunga

Advance HE Connect group for 'The Intercultural Curriculum'

Supervision materials

Language Awareness

The final contribution in this resource is a think piece podcast by Dr Catriona Cunningham interviewed by Dr Mary McCulloch, who similarly draws on the notion of ‘transculturalism’ to question how we can learn from transnational education practices, amidst the growing ethical and pedagogical concerns. Her focus is on language and the troubling prevalence of English as the lingua franca, as well as dominance of western countries driving transnational (TNE) partnerships. This podcast uses four questions to explore the troubling aspects of the TNE context and is accompanied by a set of questions being used to run workshops at the University of Stirling for colleagues who are ‘flying faculty’ to their overseas partners.

‘It takes more than one language to tell a story’ (Jackie Kay)

Dr Sara Camacho-Felix (LSE)

Adichie C. N. (2009): The danger of a single story. TED Talk. 

Internationalising higher education

TNE resources


Dr Catriona Cunningham, Academic Development Partner, University of Sterling

Professor Catherine Manathunga, Professor of Education Research, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr David Killick, Emeritus Fellow, Leeds Beckett University

Dr Marita Grimwood, Independent Academic Development Consultant


Bengsten, S. & Barnett, R. (2017) Confronting the Dark Side of Higher Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 51(1), 114-131.

Bovill, C., Jordan, L. & Watters, N. (2015).Transnational approaches to teaching and learning in higher education: challenges and possible guiding principles, Teaching in Higher Education, 20:1, 12-23

Carroll, J. (2015) Tools for Teaching in an Educationally Mobile World. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Deardorff, D. & Arasaratnam-Smith, L. (eds.) (2017). Intercultural competence: International approaches, assessment and application. Abingdon: Routledge.

Dunne C. (2011): Developing an intercultural curriculum within the context of the internationalisation of higher education: terminology, typologies and power. Higher Education Research and Development 30 (5), pp. 609-622.

Green, W. (2018). Engaging ‘students as partners’ in global learning: some possibilities and provocations. Journal of Studies in Higher Education, 23(1) 10-29.

Hoare, L. (2013). Swimming in the deep end: transnational teaching as culture learning? Higher Education Research & Development, 32:4, 561-574,

Gunn, V., Morrison, J. and Hanesworth, P. (2015). Equality and diversity in learning and teaching at Scotland’s universities: Trends, perspectives and opportunities. York: Higher Education Academy.

Ippolito, K. (2007). “Promoting intercultural learning in a multicultural university: ideals and realities”. Teaching in Higher Education 12 (5&6) pp. 749-763.

Killick, D. (2015) Developing the Global Student: Higher Education in an Era of Globalization. Abingdon and New York: Routledge

Leask, B. (2015) Internationalizing the Curriculum. Abingdon and New York: Routledge

Leung, M. & Waters, J. (2017). Educators sans frontières? Borders and power geometries in transnational education. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(8), 1276-1291.

MacKinnon, D., & Manathunga, C. (2003) ‘Going global with assessment: what to do when the dominant culture's literacy drives assessment’, Higher Education Research and Development, Vol. 22

Otten, M. (2003) ‘Intercultural learning and diversity in higher education’, Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 12-26.

Volet, S.E.and Ang, G. (2012). Culturally mixed groups on international campuses: an opportunity for inter-cultural learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 21-37. (A re-issue from HERD, 1998, 17(1), 5-23.)

Wilkins, S. (2017). Ethical issues in transnational higher education: the case of international branch campuses’. Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), 1385-1400.