A decolonizing approach to internationalization

In the first Internationalizing the Curriculum seminar, we took a critical approach to internationalization. The internationalization of higher education is defined as follows by Jane Knight (2003):

Internationalization at the national, sector, and institutional levels is defined as the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education.

Knight, J. (2003). Updated Definition of Internationalization. International Higher Education, 33, Article 33. https://doi.org/10.6017/ihe.2003.33.7391

Knight is careful to keep her definitions “nonideological.” The term “internationalization” is often conflated with “globalization,” which can connote colonizing, imperialism, and exploitation. Indeed, internationalization itself can be associated with the same things – take for example the hegemony of English as the lingua franca of academia, or the European model of the university spreading across the globe.

The Fries Center for Global Studies and the faculty members who joined the first cohort of the Internationalizing the Curriculum seminar did not wish to adopt an unconsidered internationalization strategy which would perpetuate or reproduce global inequities. We approached this work from a critical lens, attempting to understand and acknowledge the harm and violence that can come from higher education and internationalization, and to do what we could to minimize this harm.

To set the tone for the workshops, we invited guest speaker Sharon Stein of the University of British Columbia to discuss her work in critical internationalization studies. Professor Stein helped us to begin to recognize possible harmful behaviors in our own work and understand how they can be interrupted. These considerations framed our discussions and helped faculty members to create courses or modules that reflected this approach.