Internationalisation at the University of Iceland: challenges, critiques and cross-cultural responses

Háskóli Íslands

Internationalisation at the University of Iceland: challenges, critiques and cross-cultural responses

1. október kl. 10:45 til 12:15 – Click here to enter ZOOM!

International Studies in Education Project

Sue Gollifer

Conservative conceptualisations and neglect of cross-cultural experiences: Internationalisation at the University of Iceland

Sue Gollifer, adjunct, SE, UI and Brynja Halldórsdóttir, assistant professor, SE, UI

Processes of internationalisation (PoI) cannot be separated from issues of inequality and discrimination. In this presentation, we argue that the University of Iceland’s (UI) conservative conceptualisation of internationalisation away (IA) and internationalisation at home (IaH) and neglect of students’ cross-cultural experiences perpetuates educational disparities and negates quality higher education (HE) for all. We draw on research conducted on immigrant students in HE in Iceland and student narratives from the Department of International Studies in Education (DISE) of the School of Education (SoE) of the UI. The narratives of five students from DISE provide examples of cross-cultural experiences that complement the focus on policy and pedagogy of other studies. The narratives of the five students are drawn from ongoing research on DISE, which uses thematic analysis. The narratives are used to support the claim that cross-cultural experiences should inform understanding and enactment of internationalisation processes. DISE students provide evidence that conservative conceptualisations in policy, legal frameworks and strategic plans risk making invisible, or normalising, institutional failures to focus on the diverse needs of all students. We conclude by proposing that lessons can be learned from the Department of International Studies in Education (DISE).

 

Language as “a barrier to” versus language as “an opportunity for” quality higher education

Samuel Lefever, associate professor, SE, UI and Sue Gollifer, adjunct, SE, UI

Studies on the experiences of immigrant students in HE in Iceland suggest that students who do not speak Icelandic are limited in terms of choice of programmes and courses. These language constraints are contrary to policy and can be interpreted as a violation of students’ rights. Debates within the university on how best to address this situation have raised concerns about the emphasis on teaching Icelandic as a second language without the learning being embedded in and shaped by situated social actions. Our aim in this presentation is to problematise learning Icelandic as the solution, when underpinned by beliefs that the Icelandic language is under threat. We draw on sociocultural theory to argue for sociocultural responses that encourage a move away from language as “a barrier to” towards language as “an opportunity for” quality higher education for all. We conclude by drawing on the experiences of the Department of International Studies in Education and the Teaching English as a Foreign Language programme. We propose that the School of Education adopt a cross-cultural response to critically engage with the language constraint faced by immigrant students and also the notion that the Icelandic language is vulnerable to changing demographics.

 

A cross-cultural response to diversity: Presenting the DISE online handbook

Gyamena Kyeremateng, student, SE, UI, Mary Ann Divinagracia, adjunct, SE, UI, Sue Gollifer, adjunct, SE, UI and Edda Óskarsdóttir, student, SE, UI

We present the results from a two-year participatory action research project that has produced a research-based online handbook in English for the Department of International Studies in Education. The department caters to the academic and social needs of an increasing number of migrant students. Over the years, certain cross-cultural concerns related to these needs have become increasingly visible, including: lower levels of academic preparedness or different academic expectations; students being less engaged in academic and social activities; lack of accessible, clear and relevant information on entry requirements, educational rights and entitlements and inconsistent and confusing information regarding fee structures, in particular for non-European Union citizens. The handbook that we present aims to illustrate how processes of internationalisation need to be accompanied by cross-cultural responses that are informed by student experiences of higher education.  We first explain the background to the project, the methods and the findings from the student focus group and teacher workshop sessions. We then present the online handbook to illustrate how these findings have informed its development and anticipated challenges. Our project contributes to internationalisation processes that aim to address social justice concerns in higher education related to students’ academic and social wellbeing.