How do we navigate the challenges of the international university
At many European universities, the internationalization of degree programmes is a strategic goal, and an increasing number of programmes are now taught in English, which is the first language of only a few of the lecturers or students. As a result, lecturers are faced with new challenges as students as well as the lecturers themselves represent a diverse range of first languages, cultures and knowledge systems; at the same time, the teaching and learning must reach at least the same high quality standards as in more traditional mono-lingual and mono-cultural settings. For a lecturer with first language or high foreign language proficiency in English, the primary challenges may be to integrate students with other first languages into the English speaking context, whereas the lecturer who is struggling with his/her own language proficiency may have other issues as well. Common to them all, however, is to ensure that all students, irrespective of their linguistic or cultural backgrounds, contribute to and benefit from being involved in what Singh & Doherty (2004) term the global university contact zone; that their learning through the medium of a foreign language (English) is facilitated in the best way possible; and that the differences in their knowledge systems is acknowledged and used as an asset in these international programmes. With these factors in place, on the other hand, programmes with international faculty and diverse student audiences in which this diversity is exploited in an appropriate way, may have a considerable added value that positively impacts on the knowledge, skills and competences developed by their graduates. However, lecturers often feel at a loss because they are not sure how to do this and teaching becomes like driving in unknown territory without a GPS. Based on recent relevant literature on these topics as well as a short survey identifying the challenges and benefits of teaching diverse student audiences in international programmes, conducted among 50+ participants in professional development courses at Aarhus University (Denmark) 2011/12, the paper outlines these challenges under three main headings: (i) language policy and language proficiency; (ii) (educational) cultures; and (iii) knowledge systems. For each of these headings, the issues as well as possible solutions will be outlined and discussed; in addition to this, the aim, content and intended learning outcomes of a professional development programme (in-service training), Teaching in English in the Multicultural Classroom, will be introduced. Conference attendees will be asked to actively contribute to the discussion of these issues by sharing their own experience in this field, thereby contributing to a possible typology of challenges and solutions in international programmes from which all attendees may benefit. They will then not have to drive without a GPS, but will have a better background for navigating the international university. Singh, P. and C. Doherty (2004) “Global Cultural Flows and Pedagogic Dilemmas: Teaching in the Global University Contact Zone”. TESOL Quarterly, vol. 38, 1.
Internationalisation; higher education; English Medium Instruction; language policy; educational culture; knowledge systems