The Int’l Classroom – becoming more aware – University of Copenhagen

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24 April 2017

The Int’l Classroom – becoming more aware

It takes more than international students and communicating in English to make a classroom truly international. Awareness is a key point.

The voyage of international education
The University of Copenhagen’s voyage within international educational has followed a path similar to other research intensive and non-English speaking universities in continental Europe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we offered a range of stand-alone courses taught in English. In the 2000s, we began teaching Master's level degree programmes in English. In 2006, Danish legislation changed, introducing tuition fees – thus commercialising degree programmes for students from outside the European Union. Between 2008 and 2016, the University of Copenhagen increased the number of English taught degree programmes from 13 to 55.

Over the same period, we saw the proportion of our international academic staff reach 36 % and we completed a parallel language strategy for academics and students as well as professional staff. With such a trajectory, it makes sense to assess the institutional accomplishments in order to determine where to go next.

Learning more about “the international classroom”
Following our latest university-wide strategy we had the opportunity to spend time (and resources) on looking especially at international classrooms.

What is the international classroom really? How do we define the international classroom? These questions were posed by Dr. Daan Romein, a learning consultant from Leiden University, who spent a few days in Copenhagen earlier this year, holding workshops with faculty about teaching international classrooms. The UCPH Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use had invited Dr. Romein as the key speaker for a seminar on “Learning in the international Classroom”.

Hands-on advice
The audience, a good mix of academic employees and students, replied that the international classroom was about international students, teaching and communicating in English and/or gaining intercultural competences.

One of Dr. Romein’s key points was that many of us equal the international classroom with international students and teaching in English. He suggested, however, that we should be able to make a classroom international “– even if we have ‘only’ local students participating in class.” Subsequently, he suggested three points aimed at providing more awareness about learning in the international classroom:

  • Address the students (do we really know who they are?)
  • Adjust expectations (do we state clearly what our academic methods are? We might think we do – but do we, really? )
  • Act curious and define the audience (do we know where the students come from and can we use their various backgrounds in a more focused manner to utilise all perspectives from these different cultural backgrounds?)

Dr. Romein had many excellent points during the seminar. The Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use has published two booklets about the international learning environment at UCPH seen from both the lecturers’ and the students’ perspectives. The concluding remarks from the seminar were that more awareness does not necessarily cost a lot – but requires a different kind of effort – not only for those who are teaching but also for the participating students.

Looking ahead
The institutional learning we have gained from this and from the many other projects conducted in the aftermath of our second university-wide strategy will help guide us in drafting our third strategy. International learning is a very significant part of the University of Copenhagen’s educational portfolio and to sum it up it up in few words, let me quote Professor Manners from the Departement of Political Science, “To me internationalisation is a learning outcome, not just about international mobility…