Evaluating curricular and pedagogical practices of internationalisation in higher education: A postcolonial perspective
Many British and Sino-British universities offer postgraduate programmes in education to contribute to internationalisation in higher education. These programmes have recently been accompanied by heightened criticism for disregarding local contexts and for ignoring the demands for heterogeneity (Kuleta, 2017). Scholars have debated the limitations of internationalisation that aims to ‘broaden, strengthen and accelerate the world’s interconnectedness’ (Wang et al., 2022). For example, some higher education institutions perceive internationalisation merely as a mechanism to enhance revenue streams. The imperatives of internationalisation in higher education should be concerned with its value in developing knowledge and curriculum design, and promoting educational equity (see for example Burke et al., 2015). To date, there have not been any studies that cover an investigation of both British and Sino-British transnational universities’ curricula, pedagogy and programmes via the postcolonial theoretical lens.
Internationalisation of the curriculum (IoC) is a framework proposed by Thielsch (2020) that ‘outlines a pragmatic approach for postcolonialism in higher education’ (Wang et al., 2022). Using the IoC framework, we analysed publicly accessible information of 12 British and a Sino-British transnational universities’ postgraduate educational programmes on the internet in order to explore postcolonial curricular design influences and opportunities. In addition, our study invited nine postgraduate Chinese students in the Sino-British university’s programme to participate in semi-structured interviews to understand their perceptions of learning and pedagogical experiences. We also conducted interviews with programme directors of universities in both contexts to explore curricular design perspectives. For the programmatic information data, we applied the content-coding methodology to analyse the curricula, looking for patterns in the data that align with the IoC framework. For the interviews with Chinese students and programme directors, we applied a thematic analysis approach (Braun et al., 2015), identifying patterns in meaning across data to derive themes.
The curricular evaluation found that both British and Sino-British programmes emphasised the transfer of ideology that is based on Western scholars’ research embedded in the Western context. Such education models integrate little indigenous and local knowledge or student experiences. For example, some programmes’ descriptions mentioned global citizenship values and international research as important; however, the curricular listings demonstrated little to no explicit opportunity for relevant skills (such as cross-cultural communication and perspectives) to be developed throughout the trajectory of students’ learning experiences.
‘Curricular listings demonstrated little to no explicit opportunity for relevant skills (such as cross-cultural communication and perspectives) to be developed throughout the trajectory of students’ learning experiences.’
Our interviews with programme directors show that when designing the curriculum, they took the pragmatic approach to produce something that responded to the market needs. For example, increasing numbers of Chinese students are looking to pursue master’s degrees in education. Chinese students of Sino-British transnational universities have called for the alignment of traditional and Western international postgraduate curricula with indigenous ways of knowing. They reported a positive impact on their own learning when curricula explored both local and global perspectives, but they responded negatively to university settings where the emphasis centred upon traditional Western examples with little alignment with national context.
IoC framework: A pragmatic way forward and tool to look back
The findings suggest an opportunity to construct postcolonial learning environments using the IoC framework as a practical tool for educational leaders and educators. The postcolonial approach to teaching and learning emphasises the inclusivity of indigenous values, knowledge and practice in teaching and learning; this approach can be achieved in higher education contexts by weaving multiple worldviews in the curricular design rather than exclusively importing Western models, readings and examples of practice. In essence, global citizenship education should be more than just a mission statement. A module with learning outcomes that are grounded in inclusive, multicultural education theories needs to be offered in the curriculum. The teaching and learning practices should actively seek to promote intercultural competence and the inclusion of multiple perspectives on educational issues.
The goal of this study is to inspire the application of the IoC framework as a postcolonial assessment tool for higher education leaders and faculty whose aims are to construct inclusive, culturally sustaining postcolonial global programmes. The research offered critical insights into curricular and pedagogical opportunities and strengths in best preparing students for active engagement in an interconnected world. Programmes focused on international development or international education should prioritise global citizenship and intercultural competence through the intentional design of learning that weaves in local knowledge and experiences through authentic global intercultural experiences. The study heightens practitioners’ awareness of the critical curricular importance of reflecting transitional students’ cultural characteristics and former pedagogical experiences in the curriculum.
This blog post is based on the article ‘Have we addressed internationalization sufficiently? Investigating British and Sino-British postgraduate curricula with a postcolonial design perspective’ by Qian Wang, Amy Gooden, Haibo Gu, Hanlihui Ma and Yuchen Pan, published in the Curriculum Journal.
Burke, P. J., Stevenson, S., & Whelan, P. (2015). Teaching ‘excellence’ and pedagogic stratification in higher education. International Studies in Widening Participation, 2(2), 29–43. https://novaojs.newcastle.edu.au/ceehe/index.php/iswp/article/view/32
Clarke, V., Braun, V., & Hayfield, N. (2015). Thematic analysis. In J.A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (3rd ed.) (pp. 222–248). Sage.
Kuleta-Hulboj, M. (2017). Critical and postcolonial perspectives on global education: The case of Poland. Journal of Social Sciences. 19(4), 8-22. https://doi.org/10.4119/jsse-3467
Thielsch, A. (2020). Listening out and dealing with otherness: A postcolonial approach to higher education teaching. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 19(3), 227–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474022219832459
Wang, Q., Gooden, A., Gu, H., Ma, H., & Pan, Y. (2022). Have we addressed internationalization sufficiently? Investigating British and Sino-British postgraduate curricula with a postcolonial design perspective. Curriculum Journal, 33(2), 203–221. https://doi.org/10.1002/curj.146