Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Reframing Internationalization

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Reframing Internationalization

Article excerpt


Canadian higher education has long been involved in international education, partnerships, and research and development projects; however, the recent framing of international education as an industry generating revenues to prop up underfunded institutions is troubling. This approach is endorsed by provincial government strategies and bolstered by the federal government's recent International Education Strategy, which promotes doubling the recruitment of international students by 2022 (Canada, 2014). While it is true that international students bring economic benefits to the institutions and communities that host them, we should also consider the challenges that this numbers game potentially presents for education. Many institutions now strive to internationalize, and although this can encompass a broad range of activities, for many, the focus has been on increasing international student enrolment. This paper argues for the need to reframe internationalization in Canada in a way that would acknowledge the economic rationales, and yet balance them with the social and academic outcomes necessary for all students to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills required for effective participation as professionals and citizens in increasingly multicultural and global contexts. The current state of internationalization is reviewed, followed by a discussion of the influence of globalization on education; these provide the context for the argument that a renewed focus on internationalization at home (I@H), informed by critical global citizenship education, has the potential to close the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of internationalization.

Internationalization: Where Do We Go From Here?

Internationalization is a contested and variously interpreted term. Many scholars acknowledge the difficulty of definitions or of terms-internationalism, internationalization, globalization-that often are used interchangeably or mistakenly (Bond, 2006; de Witt, 2011; Enders, 2004; Harris, 2008; Knight, 2004; Stromquist, 2007). Indeed, Knight (2004) reminded us that the debate around terminology has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. Three decades later, Harris (2008) posed the question: "What does 'international' mean?" (p. 346).

The internationalization of education has been rationalized as a response to globalization, as a means for institutions to "cope with or exploit globalization" (Altbach, 2004, p. 3). These positions-"to cope with or to exploit"-are the foundation of the divide evident in the literature and go to the heart of the question as to whether internationalization is a mechanism for institutional revenue (Harris, 2008; Stromquist, 2007) within a competitive educational market, or a means to adapt education to global contexts and embrace potential opportunities for real change in terms of curriculum and learning outcomes in the form of global citizenship education (Gacel-Avila, 2005; Pike, 2008; Shultz, 2011; Swanson, 2011; Tarc, 2011) or intercultural education (Bond, 2006; Deardorff, 2006; Leask, 2010; Paige & Mestenhauser, 1999).

Scholars of internationalization have warned that a balanced approach is critical to its success and sustainability (Beck, 2012; Brandenburg & de Wit, 2010; de Wit, Hunter, Howard, & Egron-Polak, 2015; Leask, 2012). Concern has been growing that the focus on outputs, in terms of numbers or activities rather than outcomes for learning, may be detrimental. Indeed, Brandenburg and de Witt (2011) have pondered "the end of internationalization" (p. 27) and have invited educators to reconsider internationalization as a means to a goal rather than a goal in and of itself. According to Universities Canada (2014), 84% of institutions place graduating internationally knowledgeable and interculturally competent students in their top five rationales for internationalization. However, the institutional or governmental rhetoric that internationalization produces global citizens is optimistic and not necessarily grounded in the reality of students negotiating intercultural tensions in our classrooms and on our campuses (Garson, 2013). …

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