Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

The Internationalising University – An Intercultural Endeavour?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young, Dr Alina SchartnerORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


There are currently more than four million people studying in higher education (HE) institutions located outside their country of origin worldwide, and numbers are growing (OECD, 2011[TY1] ). ‘Internationalization’, which has been framed as the institutional response to this burgeoning phenomenon, raises many questions of an intercultural nature[TY2] . What is becoming increasingly clear is that the various manifestations of internationalization currently operationalized are not in themselves panaceas for institutions seeking to engage positively with the globalizing education ‘market’, and that greater numbers of international students or a higher global institutional ranking do not necessarily entail a higher degree of beneficial intercultural interaction or education. The papers in this Special Issue of The JMMD discuss from an intercultural perspective emerging issues and their effects on universities and wider societies related to the phenomenon of internationalization in higher education around the world. The focus for the Special Issue reflects cutting-edge debates within the emerging field of intercultural communication research which formed the basis of symposia and colloquia at The 43rd British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Annual Conference (Aberdeen, UK, 2010), the 3rd BAAL Intercultural Communication Special Interest Group Annual Seminar (Newcastle, UK, 2013), and the International Conference on Language and Social Psychology (ICLASP) XIII (Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 2012) and ICLASP XIV (Hawai’i, USA, 2014). For this special issue, contributors were asked to address the question of whether the ‘internationalizing’ university was an intercultural endeavor. In response, James Jian-Min Sun and Sik Hung Ng investigated the impact of the English language’s growing influence on entry requirements and on university rankings in the People’s Republic of China. Adrian Holliday’s focus is on the extent to which doctoral students in a British University feel that doing a PhD is a particularly ‘Western’ activity, and the impact their experience of study was having on their cultural identity, broadly defined. Helen Spencer-Oatey and Daniel Dauber highlight the importance being placed on intercultural communication and teamworking skills as graduate attributes, and explore student perceptions of the realities of international groupworking in HE in the UK. Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi frame the idea of ‘cultures of learning’ as an inclusive and appropriate response to an international learning environment in the UK, and highlight how students (both ‘home’ and ‘international’), staff and HE institutions in general might embrace more internationalized content and learning processes. Margaret Pitts and Catherine Brookes’s paper examines student discourse revealing cultural assumptions and tensions in international exchanges between students in the USA and Singapore, and showing how the mere opportunity for international connection does not in itself bring meaningful intercultural dialogue. Hans Ladegaard’s contribution explores the lack of integration of ‘International’ students on a campus in Hong Kong, and the reasons that lie behind this - characterized as negative outgroup stereotypes and prejudice - which, he argues, can be alleviated through intercultural dialogue which addresses taboos and ethnocentricity. Zhu Hua, Michael Handford and Tony Young investigate how intercultural communication itself is framed by HE institutional marketing discourse in the USA and UK, and how this framing relates to neoliberal influences on ‘internationalising’ universities and to the presentation of universities’ role in developing professional competences for the international marketplace.[TY3] A number of cross-cutting interest areas emerge. These include: The role of the English language in the internationalization of higher education worldwide, as entry requirement, medium of teaching and learning, and as publication medium (see in particular the contributions of James Jian-Min Sun and Sik Hung Ng, and by Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi)The relevance of institutional vs. national ‘culture’ in understanding the ‘home’ and ‘international’ student experience (a theme throughout, but explored in particular by Adrian Holliday, and by Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi) Pedagogical implications of internationalization (a focus for Margaret Pitts and Catherine Brooks, Adrian Holliday, Helen Spencer-Oatey and Daniel Dauber and Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi)Identity work and constructions of the self, themes developed in particular by James Jian-Min Sun and Sik Hung Ng, Adrian Holliday, Margaret Pitts and Catherine Brooks, Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi.Perceptions of the ‘cultural other’, intergroup stereotyping and responses to othering, themes developed by James Jian-Min Sun and Sik Hung Ng, Adrian Holliday, Hans Ladegaard, and by Zhu Hua, Michael Handford and Tony YoungThe gap between discourse advocating the promotion of intercultural communication and the realities of how it is promoted, or failed to be promoted (Hans Ladegaard and Zhu Hua, Michael Handford and Tony Young).The extent to which cultural essentialism, reification and constructivism is evident in the internationalizing higher educational context. The latter themes run throughout the volume, with varying degrees of explicitness, and reflect key current debate in intercultural studies. Essentialism tends to locate identity inside individuals, approaching it as a product of cognition, rooted in the process of socialisation. From an essentialist perspective, cultural identity is approached as a characteristic of a person that tends to be absolute, static and knowable (Benwell & Stokoe, 2006), with an attendant tendency to equate nationality with cultural predispositions (Holliday et al., 2004). This, it is argued, may lead to stereotyping and to othering (Said, 1978; Holliday, 2013). An alternative constructivist approach sees cultural identities as emergent, dialogically constructed and multiple, and arguably accounts for the observed reality more accurately and perhaps even ethically. However, the practical, applied implications of such an approach in HE and elsewhere are difficult to infer. At the level of policy, HE institutions tend to assume a reified ‘culture as given’ perspective, uncritically distinguishing between ‘home’ and ‘international’ students in a variety of ways including admission practices, fees, accommodation, and less explicit but potentially more discriminatory practices within their educational contexts. This raises further questions, for example those concerning notions of diversity and access, as well as issues of academic, psychological, and sociocultural adjustment of ‘international’ students both during and after their period of study, of and of the reaction of ‘home’ staff to the phenomenon of internationalization. With economic imperatives driving higher education policy in many contexts, the development of a critical intercultural perspective as an element of pedagogy, curriculum design and staff professional learning may be overlooked (Piller & Cho, 2013). Our Special Issue of the JMMD brings into focus the opportunities presented by a critical intercultural approach to contribute to transformative re-conceptualisations of inclusive and sustainable internationalization in higher education. While approaches to internationalization may be different across higher education systems and disciplines, common issues and challenges are shared internationally. This Special Issue of The JMMD offers different international perspectives with contributions from a broad range of higher education contexts. It brings together an international group of leading and emerging researchers from the field of intercultural communication, often with different takes on some of the key debates in the area, but with a common interest in the internationalization of higher education.[TY4] References: Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. (2006). Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Holliday, A.R., Hyde, M., & Kullman, J. (2004). Inter-cultural communication: An advanced resource book. London: Routledge. Holliday, A. R. (2013). Understanding intercultural communication: negotiating a grammar of culture. London: Routledge. Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development OECD (2011). Education at a Glance. Retrieved from Piller, I. & Cho, J. (2013). Neoliberalism as Language Policy. Language in Society, 42(1), 23-44. Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Handford M, Schartner A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development

Year: 2017

Volume: 38

Issue: 3

Pages: 189-191

Online publication date: 29/03/2016

Acceptance date: 16/12/2015

ISSN (print): 0143-4632

ISSN (electronic): 1747-7557

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2015.1134547

Notes: Invited special issue ISSN:


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric