Freshers week is almost upon us again this year at Coventry University and I am learning to teach!…So I wanted to reflect on and celebrate the diversity of students coming to study.
I have always enjoyed the vibrancy and wealth of knowledge that international students bring to universities…and when you are indulging in a new topic of interest, international students can bring a wealth of new and insightful knowledge to the table…from around the world! But there are a few myths about internationalization that I wanted to reflect on with the help of Jane Knight. These myths apply to all higher academic institutions, and of course there are always exceptions to every rule.
MYTH ONE: FOREIGN STUDENTS AS INTERNATIONALIZATION AGENTS
“A long-standing myth is that more foreign students on campus will produce
more internationalized institutional culture and curriculum. “
In fact, unless there are bespoke programmes targeted towards international students, divisions and factions will often provide a more secular experience on campus. The rationale for internationalizing a university campus is often well intended, but new strategies will be required to turn this vision into practice. To reflect on this, there may be some scope to include international students in blended learning sessions prior to their arrival on campus. Perhaps a buddying system with domestic students may also enhance the learning experience, as international students will also be adapting to a new life outside of the classroom at first.
MYTH TWO: INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION AS A PROXY FOR QUALITY
Internationalization does not always translate into improved quality or high standards. This means that we, as teachers may need to find new ways to evaluate the quality of our outputs with a view to making real world improvements. This means acting on student feedback at a personal level to understand what is happening on the shop floor. Improvements will not appear automatically, but rather than just hoping for the best….PDSA cycles may be of use when making such improvements.
MYTH THREE: INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL AGREEMENTS
It is often believed that the greater number of international agreements or
network memberships a university has the more prestigious and attractive it is to
other institutions and students
To maintain active and fruitful relationships, major investments are required in human and financial resources from individual faculty members, departments, and international university offices. This is not always feasible to maintain. Therefore, it will be key to develop a few deep and meaningful international relationships or partnerships rather than create many paper based partnerships which may not always best serve our students, staff and/or institutions.
MYTH FOUR: INTERNATIONAL ACCREDITATION
The premise is that, the more international accreditation stars
an institution has, the more internationalized it is and ergo the better it is. But a foreign recognition of quality does not necessarily speak to the scope, scale, or value of international activities related to teaching/learning, research. Again, it will only be via the creation of deep and meaningful real-world relationships that meaningful connections can be made between quality and reaping the rewards of international partnerships.
MYTH FIVE: GLOBAL BRANDING
It is a myth that an international marketing scheme is the equivalent of an internationalization plan.
An international marketing campaign is a promotion and branding exercise…an internationalization plan is a strategy to integrate an international, intercultural, and global dimension into the goals and teaching, research, and service functions of a university. In teaching international students, it may be more important to focus on the internationalization plan, as this is what may result in the better student and staff experience within the university. Then again, of course it depends on what university policies and strategies set out to achieve.
Personally, I would like to spend my time in higher education creating small numbers of really meaningful international relationships rather than collaborate with large numbers of international students and institutions. Whilst large numbers may look better on paper, superficial relationships will not translate into value, quality or high standards in academia.
People work better when they are connected through things that matter, and in order to reap the rewards of an international student community, we must all make connections that matter. It is focusing on the few important relationships that will enable us to listen, plan, do and act better in higher education.
Knight, Jane. “Five myths about internationalization.” International Higher Education 62 (2015).
Beine, Michel, Romain Noël, and Lionel Ragot. “Determinants of the international mobility of students.” Economics of Education review 41 (2014): 40-54.
Soria, Krista M., and Jordan Troisi. “Internationalization at home alternatives to study abroad: Implications for students’ development of global, international, and intercultural competencies.” Journal of Studies in International Education 18.3 (2014): 261-280.
Sin, Sei-Ching Joanna, and Kyung-Sun Kim. “International students’ everyday life information seeking: The informational value of social networking sites.” Library & Information Science Research 35.2 (2013): 107-116.
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Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤