Internationalising the content in Higher Education

Year: 2007

Author: Wihlborg, Monne, Svensson, Lennart

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Internationalisation of higher education is a current theme in research and politics of higher education. The theme in this paper is related to present developments and concerns of the growing border-crossing activities that take place between nations and their systems of Higher Education. Higher education is expected to be grounded in research, research to be an international activity, and the universities to have an international orientation also in their education of students. The dominant discourse on internationalisation of higher education in research and research based discussions have up till now mainly been from a political, an economic and an organisational perspective. There is also a tendency to place internationalisation within the frame of globalisation and the increasing trade in educational services worldwide. We do not dispute that this research is helpful to clarify some main political and economic conditions for and ways of organising higher education. However, the research does not give much basis for internationalising the teaching and learning and development of scholarship. There is an obvious risk of neglecting the meaning of the development of internationalisation in higher education when it comes to teaching and learning intercultural knowledge and competencies, and development of scholarship. There is a need of addressing questions about the internationalising of the content of education. Both at national and institutional levels, in many countries, internationalisation is stated to be an educational goal, sometimes discussed as a linear homogenization process, sometimes emphasizing a pluralistic process, multilingualism and multiculturalism. In some previous studies we have found that the substantiation? of internationalisation as an educational goal is very elusive. The concrete content considered to represent internationalisation seems to be rather haphazardly included in the teaching and learning. There is also a tendency to look at what is considered to be general knowledge and general human qualities as what represents internationalisation without considering cultural differences. In higher education there is no institutionalised educational and didactic thinking as a basis for developing internationalisation of the education. The concrete thinking is very much restricted to organisational and administrative aspects of the education. The thinking about educational content and learning outcomes is much idealised and not developed in terms of students' competencies and capabilities (attitudes and approaches). In this paper we present and discuss some conditions for an educational didactic framework and approach to internationalisation of higher education.