Internationalization idea 3: Internationalization at home

This is the third part of SFS's blog series about the Internationalization Inquiry. Also read the previous posts about residence permit and establishment abroad.

The inquiry proposes: that all education must have an international dimension.

Many of the inquiry's proposals concern rather small changes. But this proposal is ambitious: to give all educations an international dimension would mean a noticeable change for very many students.

But what does that mean? Why would international exchange be so important for the academy that it should characterize all higher education?

Many people associate internationalization with mobility. With this approach, internationalization means that many students study parts of their education in another country and that there is a mix of Swedish and foreign students in education in Sweden. However, this is somewhat simplified. Studying in another country can be valuable to the individual in many different ways - it can be educational, fun, give perspective, expand one's network of contacts - but it is an open question how it actually makes education better. Everyone probably agrees that an exchange term is something more than a charter trip, but it can be difficult to make a significant difference. Although mobility is an important component, it does not give the whole picture.

According to another view, in principle all higher education is basically already internationalized. The reasoning is that all current research uses methods and builds on research results that have emerged in different countries, in different parts of the world. Since research is also the substance of the educations, this means that both education and research always have an international character. Then add that modern science is deeply influenced by the Enlightenment's view of universalism, and it becomes clear that all academic education provides knowledge and skills that are equally valid regardless of geographical or cultural context. Drawn to the forefront, such a view would mean that there is not much to be gained from increasing internationalization.

The notion that higher education is international by definition does not capture what we have to gain from increased international exchange. The notion that internationalization is in principle only about mobility, however, has difficulty explaining why internationalization is at all a matter of education rather than diplomacy or tourism. A constructive and forward-looking view of internationalization simply needs to find a middle ground.

However, both perspectives carry part of the solution. Higher education is based on scientific and artistic foundations and has a close connection to research. The very foundations of higher education have emerged in an international context and continue to evolve through international exchanges of knowledge, problems and ideas.

Participating in higher education in a way always opens up for students to be able to participate in that process. Anyone who learns to apply a scientific method gets a tool that is shared by people all over the world. Regardless of whether a student is studying pharmacology or economic history, he or she will gain knowledge in common with students at any university in any country. This common preconception often becomes an excellent basis for cooperation and mutual understanding.

In the next step, mobility comes back into the picture. In practice, however, it is not enough to have common knowledge - we also need to be able to communicate and collaborate. In order for internationalization to provide clear added value, we need to practice translating the material into concrete contexts. Studying with people from other countries, whether it happens here or there, helps us get there.

We therefore welcome the ambitious goal. Students want useful education. In a globalized world, the international perspective is becoming increasingly important.

The next post is about official language and proposals for student organizations.