Artigo: How is academic culture influenced by internationalisation?

18/03/2019 | Por: University World News | 3729
Foto: Conexos

Artigo (em inglês) escrito pela doutoranda da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Chile e pesquisadora visitante no Centro para o Ensino Superior Internacional do Boston College, Milena Benítez, explica como a cultura acadêmica é influenciada pela internacionalização. 

Confira a íntegra do texto, publicado em 15 de março de 2019, no portal University World News

How is academic culture influenced by internationalisation?

In a globalised world, higher education systems (ie universities and colleges) integrate international practices into teaching and learning processes, research and administrative functions.

This allows them to respond more adequately to international demands such as cooperation, mobility and the development of international networks. Internationalisation trends arise within decentralised contexts; that is to say, they are not anchored in specific cultural or academic sites but are the result of an accumulation of global higher education circumstances that lead to the establishment of mechanisms and priorities within broader public policy agendas. 

As a consequence, the objectives, strategies, power relationships and individuals contributing to internationalisation are scattered throughout different higher education systems around the globe. Ultimately, internationalisation processes may be conceived as 'belonging to no one but affecting everyone'. Yet, denying that world-class universities and the educational systems of developed nations are key influencers of internationalisation practices would be specious.

Influence of internationalisation on internal processes
Four key mechanisms illustrate the spread of internationalisation practices in higher education systems and institutions: rankings, cooperation, academic mobility and curricular reforms. Furthermore, as indicated previously, world-class universities exert a clear influence on all four mechanisms. These institutions set international standards for teaching strategies as well as for research and service practices. 

This brings up an important question: what happens, internally, to universities that decide to seek and adopt internationalisation practices? An important part of each institution’s unique internal world is reflected in its academic culture: its own set of beliefs, norms, habits and values. 

Institutional and academic priorities, types of norms, validating guidelines as well as what is allowed, expected and valued are likewise influenced by ideals of what a university ‘should be’ and what ‘quality’ is. What are the features of research universities’ academic cultures that are influenced by internationalisation, itself guided by the forms and mechanisms of world-class universities?

Teaching processes are affected in several ways. Beliefs regarding quality in teaching, teaching strategies and evaluation techniques are modified. 

International demands and notions of what ‘quality teaching’ is may intermingle with academics’ own ideas of what a quality teacher is and what is important to teach within each discipline – ideas that have been validated by academics through personal experience within their own undergraduate or postgraduate programmes. As a result, internationalisation processes can generate new challenges as well as tensions.

Internationalisation processes also impact curricular decisions. Features such as the learning objectives of undergraduate programmes, graduate student profiles and cooperation with foreign universities are affected. 

All these aspects are marked by how knowledge is developed and validated by research communities, given that internationalisation processes stipulate which forms of research are valid and where valid research must be produced and disseminated. This international influence reroutes the institutional norms and values that academics associate with knowledge production.

The influence of rankings on research
Within the process of internationalisation, rankings are important. They weigh on decisions made by academic institutions; for example, they control the type of research that is prioritised and funded, forms of international cooperation, knowledge dissemination (eg which academic journals are considered relevant) and the way academic output is measured (for example, the number of peer-reviewed articles that an academic must publish per year). 

Therefore, a relevant question to ask would be: to what extent do international demands determine the what and how of research?

As for ‘academic autonomy’, international trends undoubtedly reprioritise the areas of knowledge considered relevant for academics and schools and institutions to be optimally positioned. 

This rearrangement happens, in part, due to the number of indexed journals and specific publications with more perceived value and by drawing professors to become members of editorial groups of esteemed journals. As such, higher education institutions may have local autonomy, but their interactions with the international scene influence how they produce and disseminate knowledge.

Does the international overpower the local?

What happens to local needs and demands during internationalisation processes? Does the international overpower the local? When shifting their focus toward internationalisation trends, higher education institutions can lose sight of local needs and mission objectives. 

Some institutions give more importance to international accreditation than to national accreditation and prioritise international rankings over local needs and internationally-oriented policies over social needs. Internationalisation should be conceived as a medium through which institutional quality and education processes are improved in general, and not as an end goal in and of itself.

In conclusion, internationalisation processes unquestionably affect academic cultures by establishing new challenges within teaching-learning processes, research and administrative functions. They also have an impact on how new knowledge is produced and disseminated. 

While undoubtedly generating tensions and conflict, internationalisation should stimulate academics to re-evaluate their teaching and research strategies. Similarly, it should improve the quality of higher education and its relevance to local needs – put under pressure by globalisation. 

Instead of imposing external clusters of practices and standards, internationalisation should become a support for local decision-making at higher education institutions. 

Milena Benítez is a doctoral candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and a visiting scholar at the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, United States. Email: This article was first published in the current edition of International Higher Education.

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