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Internationalisation of the learning experience within higher education is becoming progressively important with an increased emphasis on non-mobile domestic students. With increased attention to sustainability and the environment, Mary Fitzpatrick from the University of Limerick makes a case for prioritising the role of internationalisation at home to ensure a more global learning experience for all.

Within the dynamic international context of higher education, where the pressure of international rankings, increasing student numbers and the demand for globally employable graduates are prioritised, internationalisation is becoming more important than ever before. Traditionally the emphasis on internationalisation has been on outward mobility, yet with concerns about sustainability and the environmental impact, many institutions are considering how best to ensure that all students can have an international experience without necessarily travelling overseas. While international education units do support incoming students from other institutions, such as through study abroad or Erasmus programmes, there is a limited focus on the home students and their international learning experience. 

Internationalisation of higher education is defined by Hans de Wit from Boston College (2002) as the process of integrating an international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research, and service functions of the institution. Consequently it is important that learning and teaching activities are supportive of the increasingly international classroom from two distinct perspectives: one, to ensure that academic staff have the skills necessary to recognise, respect and respond appropriately to the variety of cultural and national backgrounds in their classroom and; secondly, through an internationalised curriculum, to ensure that all students are prepared to live and work in a global society. While teachers in higher education can face many challenges in teaching diverse students, the implementation of this approach tends to be limited to integrating the visiting students into the module/programme where they are enrolled.  Yet, where there is a single national student demographic, the syllabus traditionally focusses on content with little focus on the international arena (unless of course this is explicitly part of the module). Craig Zimitat from Griffith University (2008) asserts that while home graduates may never leave their own country during their programme of study, they will, upon graduation, be required to compete in international or multinational work environments. The challenge for teachers, and indeed students, is to explore the opportunities for increasing the international experience within the curriculum and at home.  This can of course be articulated in strategic documents with implementation through the following activities:

  • Ensuring that all those who teach understand the shared meaning of internationalisation for their institution. Staff who teach can benefit from strategic training and support (information sessions, workshops and conferences), which can help progress the international concept to a shared reality for both students and staff.
  • Reviewing the curriculum to ensure that it encapsulates and encourages an international learning experience. This will provide an opportunity to all who teach and should be led at programme level. The alignment of the curriculum within the international context and focus of the discipline is key and programme leaders liaising with programme teams can progress in a meaningful way.
  • Incorporating the global graduate attribute within the institution. This will increase the profile and, indeed, the significance of the internationalisation of the curriculum.
  • Developing and enriching language skills amongst all students. This will positively impact their international experience both as students and graduates.
  • Providing accessibility to mobility opportunities for staff either through visiting or hosting an international colleague. This will allow for the sharing of practices and approaches to inclusivity in learning and teaching within the diverse demographics of the increasingly international institution, in addition to attendance at international teaching and learning conferences.

Clearly, these recommendations for action can be developed and are certainly not exhaustive. The work within the EUA Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Group on internationalisation of learning and teaching considered a wide range of opportunities and developments with examples of good practices from each member institution which may inform actions. It is clear that internationalisation at home is, and will become, increasingly, key to the development of the employability of our future graduates. 


Mary Fitzpatrick
University of Limerick

Mary Fitzpatrick is the Dean of Teaching and Learning (Interim) at the University of Limerick and is a member of the EUA Thematic Peer Group on internationalisation of learning and teaching (2019).

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