Quality in Internationalizing Higher Education - a Pedagogical Issue that Needs to be Addressed from a Pedagogical Perspective

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Description: It is stated that even though plentiful of studies over the last decades have been concerned with internationalization in/of higher education, it has not been from the perspectives from the teachers and students and their experiences of aspects of internationalization in relation to their educational context (that is, as a student, and as a teacher). To emphasize the quality dimension of internationalization of higher education, teaching and learning must become the essential focuses in contrast to an organizational one. What is emphasized in this paper, aiming at the pedagogical aspect of internationalizing higher education, is a shift from an overall external perspective to a relational experienced based perspective. The conclusions in this paper are drawn from the results of conducted empirical studies and being further problematised in this paper focusing the quality aspect of internationalization in higher education. In the studies it has been important to take an empirical approach in the investigation concerned with internationalization of higher education. In this paper viewed as the description of students' and teachers' experiences and understandings of an internationalized educational context. The results show that the participants did not share a mutual understanding of the phenomenon of internationalization, or a shared curriculum (understanding). The results imply that there exist a lack of clarity concerning 'internationalization' and that it relates to a lack of teachers pedagogical/didactical theoretical awareness with consequences for students in teaching and learning situations, when aspects of internationalization are focused on. The results should be understood against the backdrop of the ongoing process of internationalization of higher education, as to be a part of a discourse concerned with the development of the quality of teaching and learning in higher education. The paper argues that a more profound understanding about the quality of internationalization in higher education must come to the fore. The paper aims at to contribute in the development of a national strategy for internationalising higher education in Sweden (Government Bill, 2004/05:162 'New world - new university). Further research concerned with the aspect of 'quality of internationalization' in Higher Education is called for and a follow up study is at the planning stage.

Methodology: The primary method of collecting data in the phenomenographic tradition has been interviewing (Bowden, 2000; Dall'Alba & Hasselgren, 1996; Gubrium & Holstein, 2001; Marton, 1986a; Ramsden et al., 1993; Trigwell, 2000, among others). The overall aim as outlined by researchers in the phenomenographic tradition has been to conduct qualitative interviews in order to explore and analyse the participants' ways of experiencing and understanding a phenomenon. In this thesis, the interviews were a form of discussion that was fairly interactive in character (Bowden, 2000; Psathas, 1995). The aim was to reveal the participant's relationship to the phenomenon by means of the interview dialogue.

The richness of data is then, of course, very important and is reflected in the research results. It is vital in order to grasp peoples experiences and their understandings (i.e., their relation to the phenomenon) to let them delimit dimensions and contextual frames of the phenomenon. Accordingly, open-ended questions have been used. In the survey study, follow-up questions of an open-ended character were posed after more or less each of the main questions. It was a question of what context the participants found relevant, that is, what they saw to be the thematic field of relevance related to the phenomenon asked about (in this case, internationalization). In conclusion, the aim of the interviews was to seek out the variations in experience and understanding of aspects of internationalization, and the focus in the analysis of the interviews, was on the relation between the interviewee and the phenomenon. The role of the interviewer in the interview situations was to encourage reflection on experiences, as well as to confront the respondents with inconsistencies in expressions and ask for clarifications and exemplifications. The aim was to gather data in line with the theoretical assumptions considered important for the studies, which would form the basis of an analysis based on the theoretical elements discernment, simultaneity and variation related to ways of understanding and conceptualising ways of experiencing internationalisation as well as ways of understanding internationalised teaching and learning.
The researcher's aim was to identify crucial elements/aspects (in the relation between the respondent and the phenomenon) that came to the fore in the interviews, and which needed to be explored further.

Conclusions: In the International Handbook of Educational Change, it is emphasized in the chapter on "Globalization and Educational Change". Wells et al., (1998) that few researchers have attempted to make an integrating connection between the economic, political and cultural dimensions of globalization and the policies and practices of education. On a meta-level, as stated by, among others, Peters & Marshall (1996), Robertson (1998) and Waters (2001), internationalization can also be related to a broader post-industrial worldwide development, related to technological, economic and political forces that are changing today's social conditions in many countries. My conclusion is, despite internationalization of higher education being highly emphasized by writers in the educational sphere, no discourse has yet been established which investigates the phenomenon from a pedagogical stance, raising questions of a didactical character and when constituting knowledge and an understanding of the phenomenon in relation to curricular objectives and curricular theory stated for higher education.

The results of the empirical studies show that students experienced the phenomenon of internationalization as obscure. This became evident since several parts, as well as foci and perspectives were involved and evidently, what was meant by internationalization was not a shared experience and understanding among the students. The results imply that one main reason for the perceived lack of clarity concerning internationalization of the education is that teachers do not share a curricular awareness and approval of pedagogical/didactical approaches when aiming to attain internationalized teaching and learning in the investigated education program. It became evident that despite the teachers' expertise, personal devotion, enthusiasm and concern when it came to internationalizing the education, they did not have a shared pedagogical/didactical culture or curriculum with a common understanding of aspects of internationalization. It became evident that in order to transform the education into an internationalized teaching and learning context, to strengthen, stress and support intercultural knowledge, capabilities and competences are essential in the education. It is argued that this could apply to all higher education. The overall conclusion is that it will be a major challenge for policymakers as well as teachers to acknowledge and shift from previous stances, to address the internationalization of higher education from a pedagogical/didactical stance. A stance which is focusing on quality in internationalization and teaching and learning.
The question that remains is how should the very idea of the university as an institution of higher education in the sense of a global entity be visualized and, furthermore, without falling into the pitfall of exchanging one internationalization ideological approach for another, claiming one to be worse, good and/or true in comparison with others. Barnett's (2004) reflection is: "how might we understand 'the university' and can higher education be any longer taken to offer a liberal education?" (Barnett, 2004, p. 71). Barnett maintains the need for the universities and their new universal purpose as "compounding our conceptual turmoil, enabling us internally (ontologically) to handle the uncertain state of being" (Barnett, 2004, p. 72). If one agrees with Barnett on this and the living in an age of supercomplexity, the discourse concerned with teaching and learning in higher education and internationalization and globalization, drawing on the results from the studies in this paper, should be given a pedagogical/didactical stance. Globalization and the need for curricula change will, according to the author's view, become the great challenge in higher education worldwide in the decades to come, a change that many other authors mentioned as important but, as claimed here, is fundamentally of a different kind, since here claiming that curricular change and educational change should primarily be based on a pedagogical/didactical stance (as to be a human activity) against the backdrop of acknowledging political-economical aspects.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences
  • Health Sciences


  • didactics., pedagogical perspective, Internationalisation, Higher Education
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch
EventConference Theme: Contested Qualities of Educational Research - Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Gent, Belgium,
Duration: 2007 Sep 192007 Sep 22


ConferenceConference Theme: Contested Qualities of Educational Research

Bibliographic note

This paper has been reviewed by a committee group: Networks 22: Higher education. Affiliation: Lund University & BTH (Blekinge Institute of Technology). The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Education (012013003), Division of Nursing (Closed 2012) (013065000)