Does Beck's theory of cosmopolitanism illuminate our understanding of educators' perspectives in shaping contemporary HE internationalisation policy and practice?

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Abstract

Aim: The purpose of this qualitative research is to report an exploration of the potential contribution that Scottish university educators can make in informing internationalisation policies as the literature is lacking in this respect. To address this lacuna this study employs Ulrich Beck’s theory of cosmopolitanism that emphaises cultural relevance and acknowledges modern risks associated with a world risk society. Beck's notion of cosmopolitanism provides a lens through which to analyse educators' perspectives on higher education (HE) internationalisation. Educators’ are HE staff who deliver teaching and conduct research but play no direct role in policymaking.

Background: Globalisation has witnessed unprecedented changes to the way in which adult education and learning is now viewed. Scottish universities in common with other HE institutions around the world have embraced internationalisation. Some have published their internationalisation strategies, presenting themselves as global institutions. Nonetheless, there remains ambiguity and lack of clarity in defining the concept of internationalisation how best such policies can be informed, as it's construction in the literature, in practice and in HE institutions in different countries varies considerably. Therefore, it may be that Scottish HE also constructs internationalisation in a particular way.

Conceptual Framework: This study is informed by socio-cultural theories and uses Beck’s ‘cosmopolitanism’ to explore how Scottish HE internationalisation policy can best be informed and provides an analytic framework in which the issue can be further considered. Beck's notion of cosmopolitanism is not to be confused with concepts such as universalism, globalism, transnationalism, and internationalisation as it acknowledges the ‘otherness’ of those who are culturally different. This notion of cosmopolitanism therefore provides a framework within which to examine internationalisation, particularly from the perspective of educators.

Method: Adopting an interpretivist approach this research utilises preliminary data from an ongoing doctoral research project. It poses two research questions. Firstly, how does Beck's cosmopolitanism influence our understanding of educators' perspectives with respect to HE internationalisation? Second, what role do HE educators play (or would they like to play) in informing contemporary internationalisation policy and practice? Three Scottish universities were selected as they had each published their internationalisation strategies. Questionnaires [n=42] followed by interviews [n=15] were used to gather data from HE educators at these three Scottish universities. The data collected has been analysed through the lens of cosmopolitanism to identify how educators conceptualise internationalisation.

Initial Findings: There were opposing views on how Scottish HE institutions shape internationalisation policies in common with other HE institutions around the world. A small majority of respondents felt Scottish policies aligned well with universities globally although a significant proportion disagreed. A major finding of the study is that HE educators have a wealth of experience and opinions of cultural issues that have the potential to meaningfully inform internationalisation policy-making.

Conclusions: HE educators have a wealth of experiences and knowledge that could potentially, beneficially inform Scottish HE internationalisation policies. These staff are not currently involved in policy-making. Consideration should be given to including this valuable resource in shaping future Scottish universities’ internationalisation policies as to continue to ignore it risks suboptimal operationalisation of these very policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFourth Conference of the ESREA Network on Policy Studies in Adult Education
Subtitle of host publicationAdult Education and Learning Policy in a World Risk Society
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019
EventFourth Conference of the ESREA Network on Policy Studies in Adult Education: Adult Education and Learning Policy in a World Risk Society - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 16 May 201918 May 2019
http://www.esrea.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/ESREA-newsletter-no.-4-Winter-2019.pdf

Conference

ConferenceFourth Conference of the ESREA Network on Policy Studies in Adult Education
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
CityPrague
Period16/05/1918/05/19
Internet address

Keywords

  • cosmopolitanism
  • HR educators
  • higher education
  • internationalism
  • policy development

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