22 SES 07 A, Internationalisation in Higher Education: Adaptations and Perspectives
The Department of International Studies in Education (DISE) at the University of Iceland, since its inception in 2008, has aimed to provide educational opportunities for a growing (im)migrant population seeking to access quality higher education (HE) (see Háskóli Íslands [University of Iceland], n.d.- a). Prior to the launch of the programme, the focus had been on the provision of Icelandic language for non-native speakers. The programme was therefore a response to the limited availability of HE for migrant students and the need to provide opportunities for students who had not acquired enough Icelandic to attend more traditional courses at the university (Books et al., 2010). In recent years and in increasing numbers, some of the courses have also been popular among exchange students who study in Iceland for an academic term or year.
In this paper, we discuss the contribution of the (im)migrant population to the understanding of internationalisation in HE, and in particular at the University of Iceland. We use the term (im)migrants to refer to individuals who have legal residence in Iceland as well as individuals who have obtained Icelandic citizenship (Garðarsdóttir & Hauksson, 2011). DISE students who are classified as (im)migrants are therefore those who may or may not have citizenship status but who are of foreign origin. We also understand them as falling under the umbrella term of international students.
The concept of internationalisation can be separated into two aspects, internationalisation abroad (IA) and internationalisation at home (IaH). While the former largely reflects transnational mobility, or education across borders, the second invites a focus on the curriculum through an intercultural and international lens, as well as a deeper examination of student and faculty experiences, especially for those who cannot facilely go elsewhere to gain this knowledge. Through internationalisation of the curriculum, faculty can create international and intercultural learning environments (Beelen & Jones, 2015). This, however, implies that it is sufficient to include international authors, foreign language study or use international lecturers as a means of developing student and faculty intercultural abilities. While the intent may be to prepare students to work in multicultural or international settings, this view reflects what Rizvi (2007) calls a very narrow view of internationalisation and a more neo-liberal perspective; it does not reflect the opportunities and benefits that come with the inclusion of (im)migrant students from within Iceland. We draw on Agnew and Kahn’s (2014) definition of IaH as “a comprehensive model for curricular and co-curricular learning that aims to ensure that all students have opportunities to engage in global, international, and intercultural learning in classrooms and across campuses” (p. 31).
Research on internationalisation in HE tends to focus on students who attend institutions outside their home country or country of origin. In an increasingly globalised world it is important to re-examine this aspect in order to include other populations within the HE context. In countries such as Iceland, where (im)migrants are a relatively new population and where the growing diversity presents challenges as regards students’ rights to accessible, available, acceptable and adaptable HE (see Tomasevski, 2004), it is important to include these populations in the discourse of internationalisation.
Our analysis of the changing student demographics within DISE in relation to various strategic plans and recent policies of the University of Iceland leads us to conclude that internationalisation at the UI in its current form does not attend sufficiently to the diversity of its student population. The UI policy documents (2006-2011, 2011-2016 and 2016-2021) use the term international on average 30 times, almost exclusively, however, in the context of international collaboration or relating to the university as an international research institution. Whilst this reflects one of the critical aspects of internationalisation in terms of the international involvement of faculty, administration and students, it does not refer to (im)migrant populations specifically, but rather connects with the concepts of transnational mobility (Kim, 2009) and a more traditional understanding of internationalisation. We argue that neither the law nor the university policies have kept up with the changing demographics within the higher education context in Iceland and currently do not directly address IaH. In its current iteration, research and discussion around internationalisation remains focused on the needs of students who come for shorter or longer exchanges, but in the long run do not remain as part of the Icelandic social, cultural and economic community, which (im)migrant students do. We propose a broader definition of internationalisation to reflect and respond to all international students in order to better serve the (im)migrant student population. We further argue for increased recognition of the programme’s contribution to the university’s internationalisation policy in the context of global demands for increased diversity in higher education.
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