HIEST Seminar 26 Sept 2023: Associate Professors Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Lene Møller Madsen

Exploring the Geographies of Internationalisation

In RUU E314 Isa; to attend online please register here.

In this presentation, we share findings from the Danish research project Geographies of Internationalisation, a research project that explores how internationalisation affects the perception of quality, relevance and learning in higher education and how these perceptions travel with mobile students and academics. First, we deconstruct the ‘international classroom’, then we discuss international academics and the uneven geographies of their mobility.

Based on an ethnographic study of a so-called international programme at a Danish HEI, we found that the ‘international classroom’ is in fact always nationally located. National policies and institutional regulations are in part shaping the classroom and more importantly the choice of pedagogies, curriculum, and teaching/learning styles are instrumental in framing some students as ‘the good student’ with ‘the right knowledge’. International often become proxy for ‘English’ whereby the Anglo-Saxon academy inadvertently come to been seen as the best or even the universal. Native speakers of English are often seen as more clever or well-spoken, but Danish students also had some clear advantages. These relate to pedagogies and teaching/learning styles. In this programme there was a strong emphasis on study groups and group presentations, which is common in many HEI programmes in Denmark. Danish students were therefore used to this and knew how to behave and act in these situations – and thereby became the ‘good students’ just by doing what they usually did. By labeling the classroom an ‘international classroom’ and not acknowledging the national anchoring, non-Danish students were at a disadvantage which was difficult to talk about thereby they felt inferior and insecure. The ‘international’ evokes an idea of a space where all students should be on equal terms, which in fact they were not.

In the next case, we problematize academic mobility as a neutral and an unconditionally good tool of internationalisation. We do this by listening to the voices of the internationally mobile academics themselves and unfold their stories about which decisions, coincidence, and sacrifices are part and parcel of their trajectories. We draw on qualitative interview material with 21 international academics differing in age, nationality, and career level (post-docs, assistant, associate, and full professor) employed at three Danish universities. First, we investigate ‘why the participant came to Denmark’ by analysing temporal distinctions and possibilities the participants ascribe to Denmark (and other places), and how these play into their choices of where and when to move. Secondly, we explore how participants are ‘living the mobility’, where we also show how authoritative rules and restrictions may impact the participants’ possibilities for mobility, and how this can create both spatial and temporal unevenness amongst them. We find that international academics ascribe temporal distinctions to places and that the majority of the interviewees preferred to move ‘forward’ in time. We conclude that temporality is linked to inequalities and uneven geographies among the international academics, illustrating that some enjoy more privilege and advantage than others do re/producing global inequalities.

Presenter background:

Hanne Kirstine Adriansen is associate professor at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her primary research interest is geographies of education, which entails the spatial dimensions of education primarily higher education. Besides her current project, she has researched how international collaboration produces and reproduces global hierarchies. The history and changing societal role of the university is another topic of interest.

Lene Møller Madsen is associate professor at University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her research is within the field of science education, with a special interest in geoscience education. Her focus of research is on students’ learning processes and ways of becoming members of science disciplines. In the Geographies of Internationalisation project she has in particular been involved in understanding academic mobility as a tool of internationalisation.

Presenter websites / other info: Hanne Kirstine Adriansen Lene Møller Madsen

Project info / website: Geographies of Internationalisation - https://projects.au.dk/geoint/