Document Sample
					                       Case Study presented by Millicent E. Poole

        Intercultural Dialogue in action within the university context

                                    Edith Cowan University
                                      Western Australia

1. Introduction

Edith Cowan University (ECU) is a large, multi Campus University in Perth Western
Australia. It has approximately 22,500 students, including nearly four thousand
international students, from around 80 countries.

ECU‟s mission is:
       to provide, within a diverse and dynamic learning environment,
       university education of recognised quality, especially for those
       people employed in, or seeking employment in, the service

We have a strong commitment to our three defining themes: Service, Professionalism
and Enterprise. ECU strives to epitomise diversity and institutional differentiation.
This differentiation is driven by a dynamic ability to understand and service a
distinctive set of needs in the Western Australian education and labour markets. This
capability extends to national and international markets.

As a New Generation University, we are enterprising in the way we define and
implement our mission and in our approach to teaching and learning, where we pursue
innovative strategies to cater for our highly diverse student group. In common with
newer universities around the world, Australian New Generation Universities have the
most diverse student populations, with higher than average proportions of:

        Part time students
        Students aged 25 and over
        Indigenous students
        People with disabilities
        People from a non-English speaking background
        Women in non-traditional areas
        People from rural and isolated areas
        People from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds1

Edith Cowan University has undertaken an extensive and successful strategy of
international student recruitment. Initially perhaps this was driven by the need to

  Poole, M.E. (2004), Australia’s New Generation Universities: A broad data profile, paper prepared
for the New Generation Universities Conference, University College of the Cariboo, Kamloops, BC

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source additional revenue; we now value the richness international students add to the
diversity of our student body, and regard this diversity as one of our major strengths.

2. Outline of policy/practice/program
ECU has a strong policy framework to support intercultural understanding and
internationalisation. We have a range of policies covering equality of opportunity,
statements on Indigenous issues, policies and procedures for recruitment and
enrolment of international students, support for onshore international students, quality
and monitoring processes for our offshore partners, numerous staff and student
exchange agreements, and a variety of international partnership agreements. Our
teaching and learning policies support internationalisation of the curriculum. ECU
promotes and celebrates multiculturalism.

This case study will not outline the detail of our policies. Whilst these are vitally
important, I will take this opportunity to share how ECU „walks the talk‟, to discuss
what strategies we use, and consider intercultural dialogue in action at ECU.

Indigenous dialogue
In Australian higher education, dialogue with indigenous (or „first nation‟) peoples is
a key priority. Aboriginal students and staff are under-represented within higher
education, and a complex array of social, health, poverty and employment issues for
this group are still to be resolved.

At ECU we have established a School of Indigenous Studies – Kurongkurl Katitjin –
as one strategy to address the issue of intercultural dialogue with indigenous groups.
Kurongkurl Katitjin means „Coming Together to Learn‟ in local Nyungar language. A
dedicated school with its welcoming environment provides tremendous support for
indigenous students and staff and is proving a highly successful strategy.

ECU has offered Indigenous programs and pathways into university courses for the
last 25 years. Students can enrol in the Indigenous University Orientation Course,
through to undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The pathways component is
particularly important as indigenous children do not have the same participation rate
in post compulsory education as non-indigenous students. Without the support and
opportunity provided through university preparation courses, and the ongoing tutoring
and mentoring we provide, many indigenous students would not be able to access
university, or succeed once enrolled.

However, we found that Kurongkurl Katitjin, whilst providing a wonderful resource
for students and the community, had become the focal point of indigenous interaction.
We have taken a conscious decision to extend indigenous interaction across the
University. One of the lessons I would draw from this aspect of the case study is the
vigilance needed to ensure that one initiative does not come to be seen as the
„solution‟ to a challenge. The extension of the role of the Indigenous Consultative
Committee to provide a broader dialogue between the whole University and the
indigenous community is one response we have made. The establishment of a Pro
Vice-Chancellor, (Equity and Indigenous) was another very strong strategy to raise
the profile of our work in this area. The construction of a purpose-built indigenous
centre to better meet the needs of indigenous students and staff, which is currently
underway, is another strong message to the community of the value that we place on
supporting indigenous students.

Case Study on Intercultural Learning and Dialogue - Millicent Poole, for IAU          2
Internationalisation of the Curriculum
ECU has adopted the definition of internationalisation as: …the process of integrating
an international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service
functions of the institution.2 Further, the International Plan of the University states
that “the University’s approach to international activities is not simply in terms of
revenue generation, but embraces the internationalisation of Australian students and

The University‟s commitment to a broad interpretation of internationalisation was
strengthened when its Academic Board adopted the following as one of its generic
graduate attributes: “an ECU graduate is culturally sensitive, appreciates other
cultures and demonstrates international and global perspectives”.

The report Internationalisation of Higher Education: Goals and Strategies
commission by IDP Education Australia in 1996 suggested that the key components
of internationalisation could be divided into two main categories:

       Program strategies, which refer to those academic activities and services
        which integrate an international dimension into the main functions of higher

       Organisational strategies which include those initiation which help to ensure
        that an international dimension is institutionalised through appropriate policies
        and administrative systems.

Examples of program and organisational strategies are3:

Program strategies – Academic                      Organisational strategies

    A. Student-oriented programs                     G. Governance
    B. Staff oriented programs                       H. Operations
    C. Curriculum development                        I.    Support services
               programs                              J.    Human resource
    D. Research and scholarly                          development
    E. Transnational programs
    F. Extracurricular activities

Our recent review of internationalisation of the curriculum suggests that ECU has
already implemented most of the elements of these strategies.

Recent work by the International Association of Universities shows that student, staff
and teacher development; academic standards and quality assurance; and international

  ECU‟s Academic Board, 2002. This definition draws upon Knight, J., (1999) “Internationalisation in
Higher Education”, in Quality and Internationalisation in Higher Education, OECD, Paris, p16.
  Adapted from a paper prepared by Professor Robyn Quin for ECU‟s Vice Chancellor‟s Planning and
Management Group

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research collaboration are ranked as the three most important benefits of

In building upon our internationalisation strategy we are now looking to extend this
towards educating our students for a global knowledge society. This will require us to
focus more closely on our graduate attributes and how they will equip our students to
flourish within a global knowledge society.

Examples of International cooperation:
The Utrecht Network
The Utrecht Network consists of twenty-six universities from Western and Central
Europe that cooperate in a wide range of activities. The Australian-European
Network (AEN) was established in 1999 as a result of cooperation between seven
Australian universities and the Utrecht Network. The AEN and Utrecht Network work
together to provide opportunities for student and staff exchange programs and
research collaboration. ECU was one of the founding members of the network and
has been active in encouraging staff and students to take advantage of the intercultural
exchange opportunities it provides.

Staff and student exchanges
ECU hosts many international Study Abroad students each year. ECU students are
also encouraged to broaden their skills and knowledge by spending part of their
university life studying at international partner universities. ECU has long standing
exchange agreements with approximately 60 universities all over the world. Students
can study overseas for one or two semesters and earn credits towards their ECU

The ECU international Study Abroad and Exchange program is seen to have many
benefits: it widens students‟ horizons intellectually, socially and culturally; it provides
an “intellectual adventure” and opportunities for personal growth; and it also
improves future employment prospects.

Hyogo University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific
Western Australia has had a sister-state relationship with Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
since 1981. The Hyogo University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific agreement, signed
in May 2000, includes four Japanese universities (Himeiji Dokkyo University, Konan
University, Kobe Shinwa Women‟s University and the College of Nursing, Art and
Science, Kobe) and has the aims of: increasing the exchange of students and staff,
increasing regional cooperation between universities, deepening the mutual
understanding of cultural, economic and social systems of the countries in the region
and acting as an international base for developing new leaders for the next generation.

Through the scheme ECU Japanese language students have had the opportunity to
participate in cultural exchange with Japanese students, through spending a week on
the Biennial Floating University. On-board they take part in lectures and social
activities. ECU hosts about 80 of these students at Joondalup campus - providing
them with a taste of some aspects of Australian life.

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International associations
ECU is a member of a number of international associations – most notably the
International Association of Universities, the Association of Commonwealth
Universities and the International Association of University Presidents. Involvement
in these organisations at Board level ensures that the Vice-Chancellor and other senior
staff are regularly exposed to the issues facing higher education providers around the
world. The intercultural dialogue also provides opportunities for ECU to engage on
issues at an international level. ECU is able to bring different ways of thinking into
its own strategies, and as such is enriched by this dialogue.

Responses to international incidents
Like many institutions ECU has had to respond to major international incidents in a
way which reflects our abhorrence of the events but which also makes clear our
support for international students and staff.

ECU recognises the danger of prejudice and intolerance which can arise after recent
incidents, and strongly supports the Australian Vice-Chancellors‟ Committee‟s
condemnation of racial vilification, harassment and discrimination. We support the
AVCC‟s statements that such actions and behaviour are morally repugnant, and
contrary to Australia‟s traditions of equality of opportunity, social inclusiveness and

We have also responded in practical ways, one example being through the
establishment of a multi-faith chaplaincy. The chaplaincy is a way to value all faith
traditions, and respect students and staff as members of ECU's multicultural and
multi-faith community. Multicultural Day celebrations are also an important event in
our calendar.

3. Issues

ECU has much to gain from continued intercultural dialogue. Our journey has
ensured that we have in place the organisational structures to facilitate intercultural
learning. We strive to ensure that ECU provides a genuinely international education
through program strategies and internationalisation of the curriculum. We recognise
that the need for increased intercultural dialogue is critically important.

Our environment is complex and constantly changing. Tensions are arising in all
developed countries between Government expectations and the aspirations of
individual institutions. It is clear that Governments are focused on the income and
export dollar potential of higher education; institutions are more concerned with the
mobility, research collaboration and broader social benefits of internationalisation. I
would anticipate that this tension will intensify as greater pressure is placed on
universities to generate income.

We must also be conscious of the fact that for developing countries brain drain and
the loss of cultural identify are seen as the greatest risks of internationalisation, and
we should not assume therefore that greater internationalisation is something to which
we all aspire.

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Despite some of the problems that internationalisation brings, I am of the view that
the benefits far out-weigh the negatives. As we increase intercultural dialogue we can
only learn more from, and about, each other.

References/Recommended readings

Asmar, C., Proude, E. & Inge, L., (2004), “‟Unwelcome sisters? An analysis of
    findings from a study of how Muslim women (and Muslim men) experience
    university,” Australian Journal of Education, vol 48 No 1 pp. 47 - 63

Knight, J., (1999) “Internationalisation in Higher Education”, Quality and
     Internationalisation in Higher Education, OECD, Paris.

Ramburuth, P. & McCormick, J., (2001) “Learning diversity in higher education: A
    comparative study of Asian and Australian Students, Higher Education, vol 42,
    pp. 333-350.

Wright, S & Lander, D., (2003), “Collaborative group interactions of students from
     two ethnic backgrounds”, Higher Education Research & Development, vol 22
     no 3 pp. 237 – 252.

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