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“A sad but proud moment”: the final conference of the IntlUni project

The final conference of the IntlUni project was held in Brussels, in the grand surroundings of the Salle des Miroirs in the Brussels Parlement, on 24th September 2015. This final showcase meeting celebrated the close of the project with the publication of the final report, including IntlUni’s recommendations for addressing the challenges and opportunities of the international classroom. It is the culmination of three years’ work by 38 partner institutions across 27 European countries.

2015.10.07 | Kate Borthwick, Peter Stear and Mette Kastberg Lillemose

Guests from the 38 partner institutions, as well as external experts, higher education leaders and representatives from key European associations at the final conference in Salle des Miroirs, Brussels Parliament

Campus dean, Tom Van Puyenbroeck, from KU Leuven

IntlUni project coordinator, Karen M. Lauridsen, Aarhus University

Professor Betty Leask, from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Panel 2: Higher Education Leaders.

Panel 3: European Associations: EUA, EURASHE, ENQA and ESU. Chair Carmen Pérez Vidal, UPF, ES

Krista Varantola, chair of the IntlUni project’s Evaluation Board

The event, ‘Towards mastering the challenges of the international classroom,’ was attended by over a 100 participants from the 38 partner institutions, as well as external experts, higher education leaders and representatives from key European associations. It was a day of rich discussions, plans for future work and partnerships, and optimism for the implementation of internationalisation programmes and curricula across Europe.

The day opened with words of welcome from Campus dean, Tom Van Puyenbroeck, from Faculty of Economics and Business, KU Leuven, in Belgium, as host of the meeting.

Then project coordinator, Karen M. Lauridsen from Aarhus University, kicked off the event by giving an overview of the origins, rationale and methodology of the project, noting that “as the project draws to a close, this is a sad but proud moment…we’ve had fun and it’s been hard work too!” She went on to outline how the project started out by identifying challenges in the international classrooms across the IntlUni network, then progressed to capturing examples of effective practice across the partner network. Data analysis of this rich information-set then led to the formation of principles for addressing challenges in the international classroom and a set of recommendations for HEIs, national/regional authorities and European actors. The recommendations and principles were published online that day in the project’s Final Report.

The conference keynote session was given by internationalization expert, Professor Betty Leask, from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. She spoke about her work on internationalizing the curriculum and illustrated her words with real examples of students’ stories, underscoring her idea that: “When talking about internationalization, we are talking about real people. It is a deeply human endeavor and that is something we always need to remember.” She advised that internationalization should be an ‘intentional activity’ and with reference to IntlUni, said that, “it has been a pleasure to watch this project from afar. Monocultural learning spaces don’t exist anymore, so this project is very relevant. It is important to keep the network and the sharing going.”

The session continued with the presentation of the IntlUni principles and recommendations. Kevin Haines, project partner from the University of Groningen, outlined the IntlUni principles, the “foundation stones” of the project. He described how the quality principles, derived from examples of good practice submitted by the project partners, can help “manage the encounter” in the multilingual and multicultural learning space and create a “positive exchange process” that will transform the institutional environment, educational processes and the students’ educational outcomes. Emma Dafouz Milne, partner from Complutense University, Madrid, emphasized how the IntlUni recommendations target not only the three dimensions within the HEIs (the institution, the HE teachers and the students), but also the national or regional and European levels. Given the complexity of the multilingual and multicultural learning space and the diversity in institutional settings across Europe, the recommendations – such as creating inclusive language and culture policies, providing professional development programmes or fostering internationalized curricula – should be viewed as a set of guidelines to be taken into account, negotiated and suitably implemented in their respective local contexts.

Three panels of external experts convened in the afternoon sessions to discuss and comment on the project outcomes. Betty Leask was joined by educational development consultant Jude Carroll in the first panel, comprising higher education experts. The experts emphasised the importance of the project report in providing a “roadmap” (Leask) for change and for providing help in addressing opposing voices within institutions. Professor Leask asked the audience to reflect on whether we wanted ‘inclusion’ or ‘integration?’ How do we see these terms? How do our students see them? Jude Carroll reminded us that principles are useful ‘thinking tools’ but that on their own ‘they do nothing’: we need to put ‘theory into practice.’

The second panel of HE leaders included Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken from Groningen University, who first presented his work on an International Classroom project at his own university; Celio Conceicao from the University of the Algarve, and Vice Rector for Internationalization Dorothy Kelly from Granada University. The HE leaders noted that a “huge effort of synthesis has gone into this document. It is a comprehensive approach. It is going to be extremely useful at institutional level…it gives legitimacy to our discussions about internationalization and links quality to teaching and learning.” (Kelly)

The third panel included representatives from all the four major European associations: Monica Steinel (European University Association), Marc Vandewelle (European Association of Institutions of Higher Education), Paula Ranne (European Association for Quality Assurance) and Karolina Pietkiewicz (European Students Union). This panel promised to bring the document to policy discussions and work to lower barriers to the implementation of its ideas.

The closing conference session saw IntlUni’s Don Peckham present on impact and how the outcomes were already “inspiring change” at partner institutions. He noted that for many project partners, change was just beginning and that the real work of internationalization would begin now, as the project itself ended. There were also words from Krista Varantola, chair of the project’s Evaluation Board, who underscored the importance of IntlUni’s descriptive, analytical approach “which can take into account the great diversity of international programmes at the partner universities. IntlUni results will provide an indispensable part of the collaborative environment in which programmes [of internationalization] should be designed.”

The event was closed by Rapporteur and president of the European Language Council, Maurizio Viezzi, who stated that “the IntlUni principles and recommendations, rather like internationalization itself, are not an end but a means to an end, requiring further and ongoing engagement both within and beyond the network.” For project partners, the end of the project is only the beginning of an exciting journey towards consolidating and realizing effective international classrooms, programmes and curricula across Europe.

So as IntlUni comes to an end, we are a network of colleagues saddened to goodbye, but very proud of what we have achieved and what we will achieve in the future, working to enhance and implement quality teaching and learning in the international classroom.

 

Read the Final IntlUni Report here

 

Contact for further information:

Mrs. Karen M. Lauridsen

Associate professor / IntlUni Coordinator (Erasmus Academic Network 2012-2015)

Centre for Teaching and Learning, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University

Fuglesangs alle 4, Building 2621-B114, 8210 Aarhus V, Denmark.

Tel.: +45 8716 5105

Mobile: + 45 2443 8938

Mail: kml@au.dk

Ms. Mette Kastberg Lillemose

IntlUni Project Manager (Erasmus Academic Network 2012-2015)

Centre for Teaching and Learning, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University

Fuglesangs alle 4, Building 2621-B128a, 8210 Aarhus V, Denmark.

Tel.: 8716 4738    

Mail: mkl@au.dk

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